Pediatric anxiety was a significant mental health issue even before COVID-19. According to the CDC, 7% of children in the U.S. aged 3-17 years have been diagnosed with anxiety. Citing early data from a Bristol University research study, London-based BfB Labs states anxiety levels have more than doubled among young people following the COVID-19 lockdown. The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently granted regulatory approval for BfB Labs’ Lumi Nova mobile game for pediatric anxiety in children aged 7-12.

It took a team to collaborate on the creation of Lumi Nova: National Health Service (NHS) clinicians, children, parents, teachers, game producer MindTech UK, and the University of Reading’s Anxiety and Depression in Young People (AnDY) Research Unit. The game is accessible via NHS mental health services, schools, and local medical authorities in the UK. The MHRA approval states that Lumi Nova meets the highest standards in clinical safety and data security.

Lumi Nova uses immersive tales of courage in a graded series of exposures to help children build lifelong skills to manage their anxiety. The game consists of challenges both inside and out of the game. According to BfB Labs, a trial study with MindTech and the Southwark Council reduced anxiety levels for children who took part in the study. Ninety young people and their parents from 12 schools participated in the study. After eight weeks, children who used Lumi Nova showed reduced symptoms in all measures of anxiety. The children who played the game more often turned out to have more significant symptom reduction. The improvement occurred for both genders and with both older and younger children in the group. Participants also had greater than average engagement and treatment adherence.

Combining gamified digital therapy with mental health treatment for children is a significant step at any time. The benefit is especially important during this time of limited travel and concerns about exposure to infection.