It seems like these days, the topic of mental health comes up in conversation more and more. This isn’t entirely shocking. Between the pandemic and people going back to their classrooms and offices, the last few years have been nothing short of a whirlwind. Not to mention, there’s been many people, including high-profile names, speaking up about their own experiences and placing mental health on their list of top priorities.
What is mental health, you ask? The US Department of Health and Human Services states that “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” It also affects you at all stages in life and all aspects of your life, including your job, your personal life, and yes, even when you’re playing video games.
Don’t panic. You already know we’re not about to tell you to stop playing all your favorite games. In fact, video games can even improve and boost mental health. A 2019 survey showed that 80% of gamers said that video games were an outlet that allows them to alleviate stress and tension, and offers relaxation time.
Gaming can also provide people with opportunities to interact with others. It’s nice to come home after a long day at work and interact with people about something you’re passionate about. Loneliness can affect a person’s mental health, but video games can help give that sense of community. It can create an instant connection between some people, too. The gaming community can be a tight-knit one, and when you feel you’re part of something, it makes you feel good about yourself. You’re belonging to a community in which you can truly express yourselves in a real way.
The University of Oxford released a research study in 2020 that indicated that video games can not only lead to healthy brain stimulation, they can also make you happier. This makes complete sense. When you’re gaming, you’re being your true self because you’re doing what you love. And when you’re being your true self, your happiness levels increase.
Just like there can be positive things that come out of playing video games, it’s worth noting that there are some negative things, too. According to Forbes Magazine, gamers experience a similar feeling of anxiety that professional athletes do–that feeling that you’re not good enough or that you’re a failure that athletes refer to as “imposter syndrome.” This feeling is very real and affects gamers just as much as it does athletes or anyone else.
Gamers are not alone in battling their anxiety and depression. Recently, Kaiser Permanente joined forces with Cloud 9 to come out with the “Presence of Mind” initiative. This not only shows just how much gaming impacts mental health, but also how some of the biggest players have suffered from mental health issues and are now speaking openly about it. Presence of Mind tackles mental health in gaming and “aims to build awareness and resilience, reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions, and create a safe and open space for conversation within the gaming community.”
As mental health professionals increasingly see how gaming can affect mental health, they’re tackling the issue head-on. They’re providing young people with tools and resources to help deal with their mental health, and they’re recommending gamers take breaks or go for walks in between games. It can give you time to cool off if you find yourself about to rage quit, and it’s a way to escape the stresses of the game for a while if you’re feeling anxious or frustrated.
Gamers come from all backgrounds, but we’re united by one commonality: Our love for the game! The gaming community is tight-knit, and providing a platform where fellow gamers can share their own personal stories, like Presence of Mind, can help fight the stigma around mental health and encourage gamers to help each other.
At the end of the day, you know your body and your brain. We’ve seen that video games can have both negative and positive effects. If they help you release tension and alleviate stress, then all the power to you. If you ever find they’re doing the opposite, follow some of the good advice from people who know.
Here’s our last piece of advice: Keep playing and have a blast! And while you’re at it, immerse yourself in some role-playing fun with the different voices you can create with Voicemod, like Vecna, a Top Gun pilot, or even a minion!