UW researchers use virtual reality to improve teen mental health

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) – Wisconsin researchers are studying how virtual reality could improve the mental health of teenagers. UW-School of Medicine and Public Health researchers are leading the study.

Participants play a video game that allows them to control their breathing patterns. Researchers use the data to understand children in need of care and resources to support mental health. Leaders say mental health is a crisis in the United State and it is critical to explore new ways of tackling the problem.

“Encourage kids, promote this use of deep breathing, relaxed, in through the nose, long out through the mouth. Use that when they encounter stress,” said Justin Russell, a researcher a the UW-School of Medicine and Public Health. “Just a very, very, very simple training exercise, but we think if you practice it a lot the kids might actually start to use it in real-life scenarios.”

Researchers say the pandemic created more reasons to come up with tools to improve mental health outcomes for children.