Gamers and Suicide: R U OK? Day
How YOU can help with depression and suicide
©2011 David Hilton
Two years ago I first described how, as I became more and more ill with chronic illnesses and as games became more mature and immersive, I increasingly enjoyed them for the escape from my symptoms and the negative feelings I was having to deal with.
Gaming was easier than trying to relate to real people who didn’t understand what I was going through and seemed to rather not know. But eventually even gaming couldn’t bring me distraction and joy anymore.
Today I am gaming less and more engaged with my family and life around me, even if it is challenging. But I got help.
The truth is that all people need relationships and more than that, they need encouragement and caring listeners.
Today is R U OK? Day, and I encourage all of you to take a moment and consider the following information: you may save a life.
Suicide and Depression
I have never seriously considered suicide, though I’ve reached some pretty low lows. However, there are more than 65 000 people a year in Australia alone who have attempted suicide, many succeeding and leaving devastated families behind.
The World Health Organisation states that suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for all ages. Every year, nearly one million people die from suicide.
The risk factors include mental illness, primarily depression, alcohol use disorders, abuse, violence, loss, and cultural and social background.
Clinical depression is common, affecting about 121 million people worldwide, and it is among the leading causes of disability worldwide, especially in the young (15-44 year olds). Fewer than 25 % of those affected have access to effective treatments.
Gamers and Depression: The Link
Gamers could be at greater risk due to a higher likelihood of suffering depression and introversion.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a study in the Seattle area on the effects of gaming on individuals potentially discovered that gamers tend to be overweight, around 35 years old and are more likely to be depressed.
According to the article at plugged in, they are not claiming that games themselves are the cause but rather that:
depressed individuals might be turning to games as a means of self-medication, immersing themselves in a game’s world as a way of forgetting about real-life troubles.
Some gamers may be disconnecting from real relationships, leading to increased isolation.
In his excellent article titled Gamers and Depression, Noah Weil explores this relationship and even discusses suicide. He says:
It’s an unfortunate truth that people who have a propensity for this kind of recreation and/or lifestyle seem to also have an extra susceptibility to this illness.
The hope is to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease, and the strategies for beating it….Having talked with an awful lot of players over the years, it seems to me that there is simply a higher incidence of depression in our [gaming] community.
No one I’ve shared this view with has disagreed.
He goes on to advise that gamers help each other:
You as a bystander or a victim have the knowledge to help a person, a person who shares the same interests you do. Make a connection, help yourself and your community. We’ll all be better for it.
Gaming addiction and its link to suicide has been increasingly studied, however again there is uncertainty over which between gaming and depression comes before which.
According to Iowa State University’s Douglas A. Gentile, associate professor of psychology who studied child game addiction, it isn’t clear “what comes before what. Gaming might be a secondary problem. It might be that kids who are socially awkward, who aren’t doing well in school, get depressed and then lose themselves into games.”
The one thing that depression has in common with gaming is that often you’re stuck in a different world. While in gaming, the world is fun and engaging, depression saps the fun and enjoyment out of life, often leading to an obsession with escapism and a lack of drive to do anything.
It is important to note that many of the behaviors attributed to “video game nerds” are often similar to the actual symptoms of both typical and atypical depression.
You Can Help- and even save a life!
Today in Australia is R U OK? Day, aimed at encouraging everyone to connect with friends, co-workers, acquaintances and loved ones who may be struggling.
The way to do that is to start a conversation with them. The RUOK? site states:
It is the one thing we can all do to make a real difference. R U OK?Day is about prevention, preventing little problems turning into big problems.
Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.
It’s so simple. In the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.
Research shows talking about suicide with someone at risk actually reduces the chances of them taking their life.
Do people attracted to gaming often have depressive tendencies?
In Australia we have a “she’ll be right” attitude where people assume that everyone will handle things on their own. But I can tell you that it can be lonely dealing with things alone.
Personally, I still struggle with my illnesses and negative thoughts. But I have sought help, have worked hard to reconnect, and have loving people around me who are listening.
Gaming is an enjoyable hobby for me, but I have learned real relationships are more important.
Who is the person in your life who is struggling the most?
How you can help:
The following information was compiled and listed on the R U OK? Day site, which has a wealth of information and resources. Find it HERE.
1. Ask R U OK?
Start a general conversation somewhere private.
Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language.
Ask open–ended questions to discuss concerns based on their behaviour.
2. Listen Without Judgement
Guide the conversation with caring questions.
The more they talk the better. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Don’t rush to solve problems for them. It is better to have a full understanding of the issues.
Listen to the person without judging them as lazy or weak. They are trying to cope as best they can.
Don’t give advice like “cheer up” or “pull yourself together” or “you’ll be right mate”.
It is important to let them know that it is good they are discussing it.
3. Encourge Action
Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do.
Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor.
It is essential to follow up. Nothing changes until someone acts.
4. Follow up
People who are really struggling often find it difficult to take action. Therefore, it is very important to follow up on how they are going.
Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they are desperate, follow up with them sooner.
Ask if they have managed to take that first step and see someone.
Dealing with denial?
If they deny the problem, do not criticize them. Acknowledge they are not ready to talk.
Say you are still concerned about changes in their behaviour.
Ask if you can enquire again next week if there is no improvement.
What if you think the person is considering suicide?
If you are worried that someone you know is doing it tough or is thinking about suicide, it is important that you give that person an opportunity to talk about it. Find a quiet and private space to ask them how they are feeling and whether they have had any thoughts about suicide. Speak in a calm, confident and non-judgemental manner to help them feel supported and reassured.
If someone says they are thinking about suicide, it is important you take it seriously. Tell them that you care about them and you want to help. Don’t become agitated, angry or upset. Explain that thoughts of suicide are common and don’t have to be acted upon.
It is also essential that you determine whether they have formulated a plan to take their life. Ask if they have decided how they will kill themselves or if they have begun to take steps to end their life. If they have, it is critical that you do NOT leave them alone and do NOT use guilt or threats to prevent suicide. Get immediate professional help or call emergency help lines – such as Lifeline in Australia on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 – for advice and support.
People who are thinking about suicide may signal their suicidal intentions to others. In other cases, there may be no warning. It is therefore critical that you regularly engage with family, friends and colleagues and provide them with the attention and time to ask them how they are going.