Mental Health and Gamification – Episode 9

Are you ok? by ankxt (CC BY 2.0)

The stats relating to mental health are astounding. The most telling estimate of many provided by The Department of Health is that around one in five Australians experience some form of mental illness annually. As a result, everybody has witnessed the effects that anxiety disorders, depressive episodes, or psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia have on a person. No one is going to argue it’s not a problem and doesn’t need to be responded to more effectively on an ongoing basis.

So where does gamification come in? Well, gamifying elements of one’s life doesn’t work for everybody, but there certainly seems to be some potential here. While I don’t want to make it sound like gamification might not work for older demographics just as well as it does for younger people who’ve grown up in environments where gaming is more pervasive, I wonder whether the possibilities of gamification in the area of health and wellbeing might not be reinforced by the fact that the 16-24 age bracket is where mental illness is most prevalent.

A gamified app like SuperBetter is by no means a replacement for counselling and other conventional medical treatments, but it has proven for some people to provide a boost to motivation and morale in the face of life’s hurdles. We talked about the potentialities and limitations of this example in Episode 9 below:

Out With The Twins by Ian Sane (CC BY 2.0)

Resilience has emerged as a prominent theme alongside the growing mental health crises now faced around the world. SuperBetter offers one possible gamified solution (or perhaps the term ‘gamified aid’ is better here), and there is room for users to themselves explore what might work for them. As I mentioned in the video above, one young person recently tweeted me saying that Habitica (the focus of Episode 6) had proven for them to be an effective means by which to cope with mental illness. The importance of the motivation and agency of someone who embraces – or at least tries out – gamification for the purposes of self-improvement or self-healing cannot be underestimated here; the attempt itself feeds directly into the resilience being developed. In this way, the possibilities of gamification are not only in the eye of the beholder, but also in their hands – and that is a large part of where its beauty lies…

If you’re keen to hear more about the background and conceptualisation of SuperBetter, you might like to check out Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk:

Happy and safe holidays to everyone and we’ll be back with one more blog before the year’s end!


Featured image: Depression by ryan melaugh (CC BY 2.0)

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