May 2022: Online gaming platform Solitaired collaborated with long time gamer, Mental Health Activist and BAFTA Nominee John Junior, to share the benefits of gaming on mental health.
From stress relief to the benefits of multi-playing, John Junior shared his experience and his struggles with mental health, and how video gaming literally saved his life.
Following are some highlights from our conversations with him.
What does MHAW 2022 mean for people who are affected by mental health issues?
‘The meaning of Mental Health Awareness Week is to give people an open space where they can express how they feel without feeling judged or stigmatised. Unfortunately, this is partly what stops people from not reaching out for help, along with feeling like they don’t want to burden anyone else with their issues.
‘In June 2020 during lockdown, I was in a very dark place, feeling trapped and alone. I was battling the final symptom of depression and the only thing that got me through was playing with my favourite video games. It was a huge copying mechanism for me.
‘I then filmed a series called Hollyoaks Saved My Life, and I was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award. I haven’t felt suicidal since. I really do feel like a brand-new person now.’
The way video games impact mental health in a positive way
‘Video games help distract you from the real world. It is a healthy copying mechanism, as opposed to others. Sometimes, when the world out there feels a bit too much, jumping on a game immediately distracts you from your anxious thoughts. Also, speaking to online gaming friends is great distraction to avoid engaging with the negative thoughts in your mind.’
‘I have made over 1000 online friends in the past 20 years being part of the gaming community. I share with them what I do as a Mental Health Activist in the UK. Also, being online and not in person, can sometimes ease the anxiety making you feel more comfortable talking about such sensitive matters.’
Activities to complement a healthy gaming routine
‘I also meditate twice a day. This really helps me to an extent I would never think it would. I sit and listen to my body. If there is one thing I have learnt, is that our thoughts are not always worth listening to. The mind is complicated and confuses us at times.
‘I also take supplements daily, omega 3 fatty acids, gut powder (the gut makes 80% of serotonin in our body, substance that boosts our moods), magnesium and vitamin B12 tablets.
‘I also have a therapy dog, that has helped me so much and he is incredible!’
The best stress-relief video games
‘Monopoly games, board games, card games, but also single player games such as solitaire are all great to combat stress, as they all keep you busy and focused on the game itself rather than your own mind.
‘There is a huge variety of games that in my opinion can help you get out of a dark place. Multiplayer games for instance allow you to play with teams online, busy games with action packed missions (i.e. Call of Duty) are also great to engage the mind into something different and keep it on high alert.
‘As an ambassador for SOS Silence of Suicide charity, I often stress about how gaming helped me with my own battle with mental health, along with expressing how much it can also help others who might go through what I went through.
‘Gaming needs more awareness, because it really does have a powerful positive impact on how we feel, and it makes us feel part of something which can help aid those feelings of loneliness and heal our own minds.’
‘It’s amazing to see how gaming can help so many people to overcome fear and anxieties. Hobbies are supposed to be creative or entertaining ways to spend time in a pleasant way, away from the complexities and struggles of our minds.
‘Online gaming, team or single player can really help us finding an alternative focus, something to distract ourselves from our transitionary anxious thoughts.
‘As John says: mood is temporary, and as hard as it might be at the moment, there is always a brighter time ahead of us.’
John Junior was speaking to solitaired.com, a free, browser-based card game platform with more than 500 games available to play.
Photo by Mateo on Unsplash