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Gamers vs. Depression launch online psychological first aid support for gamers

By John Mills PhD

This World Mental Health Day sees the launch of a dedicated programme to support online gamers struggling with mental health issues.

Today sees the launch of a psychological first aid support programme by Gamers vs. Depression. A Movember project led by an international team of psychologists, the project aims to support online gamers with their mental health. 

With some 60 million gamers reportedly addicted to gaming, one in three suffering with poor mental health, and young people in particular struggling to reconnect post pandemic, peer support services, such as Gamers vs. Depression, are in high demand 

Aligning with advice from the World Health Organisation in 2021, the project trains members of the gaming community to deliver psychological first aid to their fellow online gamers. This peer-support approach reduces the burden on overwhelmed mental health services and provides accessible support to all.

"Gamers often struggle to understand when their behaviour is becoming disordered. Being able to discuss concerns about gaming addiction, trolling, emotion regulation concerns, and relationship worries with a fellow gamer, who has been trained to deliver psychological first aid, can be a really positive first step in getting better" said the project's lead Dr John Mills. 

Grounded in scientific literature, the project uses evidence to inform and improve gamers understanding of mental health disorders, how to spot the signs of poor mental health in themselves and others, while providing guidance on the steps to improve their wellbeing. 

Tommy (Gamer): “Gaming is a great hobby and most of my friends play online together. Most of the time it's a fun and social activity. Gaming allows you to fight battles, drive race cars, or play in a World Cup Final with your mates. It can become an escape from the real world and our problems though and this is when it can actually make people struggling with their mental health worse. As a gamer myself I know how supportive the community can be and by doing my psychological first aid training, I can support those who struggle to moderate their gaming behaviours so they can better support themselves and their mates.”

By using gaming as a mechanism to reach young people struggling with their mental health, the team hope to enable those struggling to feel heard and understood by their own communities. Figures suggest 40% of men in particular will not seek help for their mental health by a doctor. Through their work, Gamers vs. Depression are hoping their efforts help to develop a culture of self-care and peer support in the gaming community.

John: “We know men are nearly half as likely to seek support for their mental health compared to women. We also know that men are four times as likely to die by suicide. We hope that by taking the conversation to men and engaging them in a way that feels natural, we can support in the treatment of depression before things spiral out of control." 

Ivy Lim-Carter - Director, Social Innovation, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at Movember, said: "We were looking for fresh, innovative technology-based ideas to address the problem of loneliness, isolation and improve social connectedness in men and strengthen their overall mental health. We’re really looking forward to working with our new partners to develop initiatives that will support the mental health of men who are at risk of becoming socially isolated.”