Research Projects

We are co-designing and developing a series of VR environments with young people who have mental health problems for deployment in the Sowenna Unit.

VR at Sowenna Header

The goals of the project are to build two virtual reality (VR) environments for introduction to the unit and run a concurrent research project to evaluate and determine their effect on patient health and care.

VR is not just being used for gaming. Already studies have shown that VR can be beneficial in helping to treat a whole-host of mental health conditions, including easing phobias, treating post-traumatic stress disorder, helping to lessen paranoia in psychotic disorders and reducing social anxiety.

With young British adolescents having been deemed "extreme internet users," using technological advances will provide a unique opportunity to engage young people in with their treatment and potentially revolutionise the way in which young people can manage their mental health.

Young people in Sowenna will be offered a choice of guided mindfulness exercises with a member of staff or the use of the VR sensory environment as part of their treatment. They will be able to touch, feel, walk around or even lie down during their five minute long experience, which will be supervised by a clinician at all times.

The work to develop the VR project is being undertaken by Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) who will be running Sowenna, and Falmouth University who will supply the technical environments and build one of the VR environments. Triangular Pixels of Bude have been appointed build specialists for two VR environments, and Young People Cornwall, who have been instrumental from the start of the Sowenna build, will be co-designing the VR sensory environments and providing the user experience group.

Virtual Reality (VR) projects which have a direct impact on patient care are a growing area of innovation within the healthcare sector and the launch of the Sowenna Unit provides a unique opportunity to be the first project to relieve anxiety within young person inpatients in a controlled and safe environment. Sensory rooms have long been used as a method of controlling anxiety but VR environments have the benefits of complete immersion, relatively short periods of clinical supervision and multiple use.

You can examples of the environments created in the videos below.

VR sensory environments
Lobby Zen Garden Big Sky