I wanted to talk about two topics that are very close to my heart. Video games and mental health. And, since its Mental Health Awareness Month, I think now is the perfect time to do so. Unfortunately, so many people don’t understand the affects of mental health issues on every day life. For many, it is about being able to cope with the pressures of today’s society. And, one way to unwind and take some time for yourself is to play video games.

Let’s forget the stigma

Okay, I know that a lot of people want to deny the fact that mental health is even a thing. Well, before we go on, let me just say this: it is a thing and it is happening to many, many people. 1 in 4 of us will suffer from some form of mental health issue at some point in our lives. The World Health Organisation has claimed around 800,000 people take their own lives every year, many of these are War Veterans.   It’s common. So, we all agree? Good. Now, I know many of you will have heard the stigma that surrounds video games. Despite research to suggest otherwise, many still believe that video games are the spawn of Satan.

Now, we all know that isn’t true. Yes, there are a lot of games that are violent but, as I will discuss later, this is often a good thing. Because, let’s be honest, wouldn’t you rather people were violent in games than real life? There are of course the news stories that describe people being influenced by violence in video games but can we just be realistic here. Those people were always go to do terrible things. It doesn’t matter where they would have found their “inspiration”, they were always go to do it. But, you cannot blame the medium for the person’s actions.

Now, let’s try to look at some positives of why video games can really help with mental health.

Leave the stresses of the day behind

Minecraft is a game designed to be a relaxing way of relieving those stresses from the day to day

This is perhaps the biggest reason that video games help. Often, we find ourselves coming home from a stressful day at work wanting nothing more than to sink ourselves into the tv to forget about the day. But, I guarantee many of you will also want to sit down in front of a video game and let your stresses wash away in the glow of the screen.

It doesn’t matter what sort of game you play either. Whether you prefer mobile games or complex RPGs, video games are designed to make us feel rewarded and accomplished. And, in turn, we let the pressures of society fly away with each new level and accomplishment. There are even games designed to be relaxing for this very purpose. For myself, I find building games to be extremely relaxing. For others, it might be an MMO or even a card game. Whatever it is, enjoy it. That’s what it is there for.

Let our other-selves out

Image found on https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/15863829798

One thing many video games are good at are letting us experience a version of ourselves we wouldn’t normally get to see. This harks back to my earlier comment about violence in video games. Now, before you think that I’m saying everyone has a dark side, well then you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Let’s face it, we’ve all thought about punching that one person in the face or just wanting to wreak havoc after you’ve had a particularly bad day. But, most of us never actually act on those feelings. Video games on the other hand, let us experience those dark emotions with the knowledge that we won’t actually be hurting anyone in the process.

Believe it or not, having this medium to take out our anger is healthy. If you want to run over a hoard of pedestrians in GTA V, then you’re less likely to want to do it in real life. Other games, let us experience many other things we may otherwise might not have the opportunity to do. It’s a way for us to escape the horrors of the every day and become part of a world different from our own, even for a little while.

Be a part of a community

Image found on https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/29896150213

One thing many people suffering from mental health issues feel is that they are alone. It can be hard to talk about the problems we are dealing with, even with those that are closest to us. But, this is something else that video games can help with. Or, more specifically, the video game community. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer single player or multi-player games. The video game community is everywhere and is full of a variety of different people from around the globe. Being a part of this community, makes us feel like we are part of something and that is a comforting thought for many.

I know for myself, I have made many friends just because of our love of video games. And, I know it is the same for many of you. These people may even become close friends; perhaps even someone you can share more with than just video games. Then you may not feel so alone. Because, ultimately, you aren’t. There are many people out there who feel the same way you do, and you can share in your experiences together.

So, these are just some of the reasons video games can help with those of us with mental health issues. Is there anything here that you agree with? Why not share your thoughts with us. It’s time to talk.

So what do you think?

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