Opinion

Mental Illnesses and Video Games Part 1

Interviews with Streamers

This is article has been split into three parts. I will be posting the next article in a weeks time, please keep your eyes peeled. Part two I speak with two Health Professionals. 

Everyone has a story, and everyone is going through something. What helps people through those bad days?
Video Games have been around for roughly 50 years, and in my 22 years I have known a lot of people to “escape” into a world of Mario, Zelda, Skyrim, Destiny and tons more games – even streaming at that time to help get them through. Myself included.

Mental illness has been a very misunderstood condition for a very long time, even to this day some still believe it is not ‘real’, having people brush it or dismissing it as a phase. Meaning most don’t seek help where needed. For some, every day is a struggle. Intruding thoughts, anxiety they cannot control, losing interest in normal activities and so much more.

So, do Video Games help?

I spoke with a few well known people about their thoughts and journey.

Aaron RoweyRowe is a streamer and a sound engineer.

Do you yourself suffer from mental illness?
Diagnosed with PTSD and PTSD related depression.

Do you think playing video games helps yourself (or others) cope with what they are going through?100%, If I didn’t have videogames I don’t know what I would have done being stuck at home. Having that sense of community, the social aspect of video games was/is everything to me. Some days, it was all that kept me going, knowing that I would be able to knock off work and spend time with my online friends. We would talk to each other as if we had known each other for years, and if/when I had met any of them in person, it wasn’t weird for me, it felt like seeing an old friend.

Do you think possibly playing is a bad thing for mental illness?
I believe people that truly think this are wrong. Videogames helped me when I was at an all-time low, while I had close friends and family around me, videogames are what I turned to recreationally. And in doing so, I have formed some of the strongest friendships I have to this day. My life would be incredibly boring, with less people I enjoy spending time with, if it weren’t for the games of the video variety and when I started streaming/watching twitch, it opened even more doors for possible friendship and an even larger community I did not know existed. I can honestly say, if it weren’t for videogames, I’d be in a much different place, career wise, relationship wise and of course my mental state.

Does streaming help you through or do you think streaming helps others through?
I think that the streaming platforms have helped many people, in fact I’ve seen firsthand it even potentially saving someone’s life. Sometimes all people need is someone to chat to, whether it be streaming to a few people, or jumping into someone’s stream to have a chat. I find you’ll always have someone to chat to, get stuff off your chest and of course form friendships with these people, some more important than in real life friendships. I know I’ve made many friends on twitch, some in other states and I consider myself closer to them than some of the people I hang out with on a regular basis.

Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding playing games and mental illness?
Video games has always given me an outlet, they helped with loneliness along with other problems I’ve had, even if it was just something to distract myself with. A lot of people, at least in my life, confused not wanting to leave the house as a way of me telling them I didn’t want to be social and this couldn’t be further from the truth. I love hanging out with people, conversing about similar interests, although this is something I sometimes struggle with in a public setting. Gaming had been my only social outlet when I thought I couldn’t leave the house. Gaming NEVER gave me panic attacks, gaming never caused any kind of anxiety, nor did the violent games ever lead me to thoughts of hurting myself or others.

Partnered Twitch Streamer and Actress Jessie Geek&Gamer Girl James

Do you yourself suffer from mental illness?
Yeah. I’ve suffered from depression, anxiety and insomnia since my teenage years. I also suffer from chronic fatigue since having glandular fever 12 years ago. Not a great combination of things lol

Mother and Partnered Twitch Streamer/Youtuber Lori Loriipops Gugich

Do you yourself suffer from mental illness?
I have (undiagnosed) anxiety & have been through depression. I don’t suffer, I don’t like to use that term.

Do you think playing video games helps yourself (or others) cope with what they are going through?
Playing video-games (and you’ll hear this from others) has always been an escape for me. When I was a little girl, it was always for fun. When I became a late teen, I was just starting to figure out what life was about, through maturing and more conscious eyes. Naturally, things were tough at times & video-games helped ease the confusions of the many new ways I was looking at life. In particular, one of my beloved friends passed away when I was 17. In this instance, gaming helped me cope in the “now” of it all, in the way of ignoring my emotions & pushing them out. What I really needed was to step away from the MMORPG I was playing from sun up to sun down, and deal with my emotions. As a result of an imbalance between gaming (some teenagers struggle with this) and my other daily activities, I tried to take my life. I let depression eat away at me quietly. It was a dark time of my life.

Do you think possibly playing is a bad thing for mental illness?
Playing video-games to escape from reality or as a way to cope with mental illness for a while is NOT a bad thing. Anything that gives you joy, that you are passionate about, I emplore you to harness it in a way that profits you. Though, everything should be done in moderation. Too much of anything is never good. Too much cake (though some would argue), too much exercise, too much time looking down at your cellphones… Balance is what we should strive for.

Does streaming help you through or do you think streaming helps others through?
As a streamer, I enjoy entertaining a collective of people with similar interests. I love the sense of community. So many people nowadays feel like they don’t belong, and it is my pleasure to provide a fun place for people to escape to. Personally, I share alot of my life with my community. Opening up to them helps me, and it also helps others to feel less alone.

Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding playing games and mental illness?
In teenagers especially, I highly recommend parental guidance. If you notice your teen spending a worrying amount of time gaming, maybe they have become withdrawn or uninterested in conversation & activities, make sure to be proactive and ask them if they are OK. Take a risk & do something special for them. You never know.

As an adult, try & know yourself & reach out for help if you feel an imbalance in your life. Reach out to your gaming community, I think you’ll find people going through similar circumstances.

Charis HashtagME Oldfield

Do you yourself suffer from mental illness?
I suffer from Anxiety, apparently, it’s the most common form of mental disorders in Australia.
Anxiety is a tricky one, I didn’t think I suffered from anxiety at the time I finally went to see someone, and I hadn’t had it all my life so I wasn’t sure what was going on until I spoke to someone.

Anxiety if left to its own devices can trigger depression, which for me was my cue to see someone.  It was a relief to find that my depression was a symptom of my anxiety, and I just had to work through the root causes of my anxiety to be able to equip myself (with the help of my therapist) the skills I needed to get back on track.

As a corporate based manager what thinking patterns I had which had previously driven me to success was no longer working/motivating for me.  Stress was my motivator, it drove me, kept me on my toes, inspired me to reach for the sky, but at some point, it no longer worked this would lead me to overthink, wind myself up and begin to stress in an entirely new way. I failed to reach my own personal goals, I no longer felt in control and I could feel myself beginning to crack (metaphorically).

This self-imposed failure naturally made me feel like overall I was failing, and I would end up over thinking, winding myself up…this terrible cycle constants of emotion would keep me up late at night.

Slowly the motivated, independent and strong woman I was had been whittled down to a dependent insecure and depressed woman and I knew I needed help.

I am fortunate that with my career and my husband’s career I could finish my full-time work so I could concentrate on me but even then I was so embarrassed that I had a “mental disorder” that I didn’t even tell the CEO the full truth of my condition. While most people would think I probably didn’t have to, in my position and role I really should have, I probably left my CEO with more questions than I had intended.  But so great was my shame of something not being right it took me a few weeks to even say something to my mum, and I couldn’t bring myself to say something to my children although they had guessed something was terribly wrong with their mother.  Turns out I wasnt doing a good job of hiding it from them lol.

I was at the time embarrassed of the stigma of “mental disorders” that somehow it implied I was a fake or not strong as a person.

Have you been surrounded or know about mental illness?
Anxiety wasn’t something I had thought of as a mental illness.  I thought of mental illness like manic depressive, bipolar, schizophrenia.  All of which I had been around, but anxiety or depression wasn’t something I really considered as being a mental illness.  I’m not sure why?

Do you think playing video games helps yourself (or others) cope with what they are going through?  I can only speak for myself but Playing video games for me was a way to distract me from my not so helpful thinking patterns.  It was a useful tool during my therapy when I didn’t have the skills to deal with my anxiety properly.  I found I would entirely immerse myself into a game and just get lost in the game play.

It was like removing yourself from what ever is causing you to stress, just for a few moments, just to be…and not be consumed or overwhelmed by your own thoughts.

Gradually as I gained the skills to be able to manage my anxiety I would still play games still to lose myself from the world and have a bit of fun, like all gamers do.. but even now I think every now and then it’s good to have that destresser.

Once upon a time my “getting lost” moment would be in books, true stories, autobiographies, novels, reference books etc, however I found during my times of anxiety I couldn’t concentrate, gaming however instantly took me to a new place, creating that instant disconnect I needed.

Do you think possibly playing is a bad thing for mental illness?
Like all types of therapy, drugs, food, anything done in excess is not good for anyone.
I also think you shouldn’t necessarily embody all mental illness into one definition and then declare a therapy option as being good or not.

All health issues require different medical treatments, and gaming is an option that can be used as a treatment.

Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding playing games and mental illness?
Mental illness is a word used to generalise a whole array of mental health issues, but it has such a negative connotation that for many people like me it can prevent people from seeking help for fear of being deemed mentally ill.

Mentally ill…it sounds like a plea bargain on a crime show… And who wants to be deemed mentally ill unless standing in a murder trial?

As for gaming, I used to use gaming to unwind from a hard week of work on a Friday night.  Some people go dancing, drink, build stuff, exercise, clean, we all have something to help us escape from our dramas in life, something to switch is off for a few moments.

Gaming for me helped me to retain a certain type of perspective, allowing myself to withdraw and return to look at things with a bit more objectivity.

 

Matt Onechance Linscott is a streamer and has played Call of Duty competitively.

Do you yourself suffer from mental illness?
Yeah, I do, I have been diagnosed with general Anxiety Disorder and symptoms of Schizophrenia and had it for about 4 years now.

Do you think playing video games helps yourself (or others) cope with what they are going through?
I know video games definitely have helped me and others I have talked to have said, that it is a welcome distraction. However, I do not believe that it should be seen as a “cure” I can honestly say at the start of me being diagnosed I did become addicted to video games feeling like I was better than I was and not actually facing my illness, so I guess in answering your question about it being a bad thing for mental illness. It can potentially be a bad thing if video games distract you to the point of addiction creating other problems.

Does streaming help you through or do you think streaming helps others through?
Both, with streaming I’ve been able to help myself as well as others I aim to create a community that people with mental illness can have a place to talk and just be themselves and if I make them laugh in that process It’s a win, win for both of us. I know from watching my favourite streamers it gets me out of a slump if I’ve had a bad episode.

 

Writers Note: If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental illness please do not be afraid to speak up. Please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or speak to someone you trust. If you’re not from Australia please click this link to find the right place for you http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines it ain’t weak to speak.

If you would like to learn more about mental illness, please check out:
https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
https://www.headspace.org

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Caitlan ‘Mystic’ Ingrey-Ferris.

Content Creator, Writer, Gamer, Lover of Animals, the Ocean and Flowers.

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