18-year-old Saudi girl develops game to detect anxiety

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An 18-year-old Saudi Arabian girl named Rasha al Qahtani has created a technique that can be used to detect generalized anxiety disorder in adolescents using video games.

Speaking to a source, Rasha said, “I tried to heal myself, by myself, almost all of the time. In Saudi Arabia, we are starting to connect the dots and raise awareness about mental health. Getting a Psychiatric’s help is still considered a taboo in our society.”

Qahtani came in third place in the behavioral and social sciences category of the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair for her prototype, which was inspired by her personal experience and as a means of helping her peers who are struggling with anxiety.

Alqahtani put together the first draft of her test in two weeks. Rather than building a complex task of a full-blown game from scratch, she decided to create small individual “features,” a module that users would access within a preexisting video game. She didn’t code the feature for the prototype but instead produced a video simulation of what it would look like within the game.

Alqahtani made short films and created a video where players choose their own ventures by indicating how they would respond to specific scenarios.

In Alqahtani’s version, users choose how they’d react in different potentially anxiety-provoking scenarios instead of selecting which character to save from an enemy.

Her prototype tried to address stigma and inaccessibility that, according to psychologists, are significant barriers to youth seeking mental health treatment.

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