This week I delve into a more personal topic than usual – I’ll be covering mental health in the gaming and esports industries.
Mental health is a massive issue for many Australians, in fact – every year, 1 in 5 Aussies will experience a mental illness.
Esports is a booming industry, and hustling is part of the daily grind. People don’t want to slow down or miss events, especially not for something seemingly as silly as ‘a bit of anxiety’ or feeling ‘down’.
The problem with that is that if we don’t reach out when we need help, mental health can spiral out of control.
Alarmingly, 54% of people with mental illness do not access any treatment so it’s important that we keep talking about it and let people know they are not alone.
I got in touch with a few people in the esports industry to ask them how they have dealt with mental illness in their life.
Amy ‘MissPotter’ Potter
Social media manager and host at LetsPlay.Live (LPL) in New Zealand
Her mental health story:
From a very young age I had always been considered a ‘worrier’, but as I have grown up I am able to recognise when it veers into anxiety.
In 2014, I was 23, and I went to E3 for the first time. I was incredibly excited to go to LA and I couldn’t believe I was finally going to experience E3.
In reality, I experienced a week long anxiety attack, except I had no idea that’s what it was. I felt nauseous every day. I stopped drinking and eating out of constant fear I was going to throw up, which I never did. I struggled to breathe and I had no idea why. I hid in bathrooms for 90% of my first E3.
When I got home I assumed I would ‘be better’ again, but I wasn’t. I was convinced I SHOULD be able to fix myself. There was nothing ‘wrong’ with me, it was all ‘in my head’.
What happened next:
When I finally went to the doctor I broke down in tears. She explained anxiety to me and I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. She told me I needed to stress less, keep my adrenaline under control, make sure I ate well, spend more time relaxing – all the good things. And she gave me medication, which made me instantly feel like I was myself again.
I found it incredibly difficult to admit that the “All Go All The Time” lifestyle I was living was physically bad for my health.
I still have days where I feel absolutely awful, but I now know why and I am able to take time for myself to do a round of Headspace and make sure I get to the gym. I haven’t had to hide in a bathroom since 2015!
She recommends: CheckPoint Org, for normalising and bringing awareness to the specifics of coping with mental illness in the games industry.
This one particular gif that weirdly became my absolute best coping strategy – it forced me to slow down my mind and concentrate on my breathing.
Exercise – whatever your favourite flavour is, moving your body and clearing your mind are so incredible important when dealing with anxiety, even though it’s often the very last thing you feel like doing.
Follow her at @HelloMissPotter
Lauren ‘Unnie’ Elwood
Writer for Riot Games OCE, Social Media Coordinator for the OPL
Her mental health story:
Early high school is when I think I realised I had mental health issues. Depression runs in my family so since I was young my mum always made sure I was educated and aware about her mental illness and that it could be the same for me. I don’t think I dealt with it very well in the beginning, now I actively work to stay happy and mentally healthy.
Her coping strategies?
I make sure to not isolate myself when I get into an unhealthy mindset, and also remind myself to treat myself a lot better. I make sure to reach out to people when I need to, and I actually talk to myself to get out of it.
“Why are you feeling this way right now? Do you actually want to dwell on this? What are some things that make you happy at the moment?”
Therapy is incredibly important, but the thing with therapy is that you have to be ready to change and work on yourself. Your therapist can only tell you so much, but it has to be you who ultimately begins to change and work on yourself. Depression is a cycle that can be very hard to get out of, but taking little steps at a time and being mindful of your depression and your triggers can help you move forward.
Friends are also a fantastic resource in fighting it and are what I oftentimes focus on to get healthy again.
Follow her at @lozunnie
Andrew ‘SpeetySomething’ Speet
Twitch streamer and esports caster
His mental health story:
I realised I had mental health issues when I was 18. After a rough childhood and a serious relationship ending I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder, which caused a lot of important things in my life to halt.
It affected my work and studies, and my personal relationships after that. I tried seeing multiple psychologists to try and help myself through it but ultimately failed and turned to alcohol. After a year or so of being in a dark spot, I found out how much support was around me and decided I need more help and have been working towards a better tomorrow ever since.
How did he deal with it?
I really enjoy streaming, it gives me social connections without ever having to leave my house. It makes me feel, for lack of a better word, wanted.
I also enjoy gaming. Being able to escape to a different place when I’m on my computer is more than a guy like me could ever ask for.
Beyond Blue – the amount of information on their website helped me understand so much about what I was going through and made me realise that I wasn’t alone.”
Follow him at @speetysomething:
Each and every one of them have been successful in managing their illnesses and continue to thrive despite their setbacks. Truly inspiring.
So we’ve heard about individuals, what about larger initiatives? I’m grateful that more and more are cropping up in the gaming industry, here are some notable ones:
Redcross created ‘Beat Loneliness’, a program that aims to brings people together with a shared interest. In their press release they stated:
“More than one in four of all Australians report feeling lonely most or all of the time. Loneliness isn’t just an upsetting or annoying feeling it’s genuinely bad for your health.”
Legacy got on board and participated in the launch event at Australia’s first dedicated esports bar GG EZ in May.
Plus, everyone participating got a free jersey, definitely worth it!
Riot introduced ‘Headspace Round’ in split 1 earlier this year. They heavily focused on talking about mental health throughout the round and featured videos of the players talking about their mental health and coping methods.
It was an awesome initiative and I hope they feature it again this split!
Personally, I have been affected by anxiety. I thought I had to deal with it alone, until I reached out to people and realised many of my friends wanted to help me out. If you ever want to reach out to someone, check out the following resources.
There are currently 101 headspace centres across Australia. They can support people aged 18 – 25 with anything from drug addiction, to help focusing for study.
Or if you prefer, you can use eheadspace’s online and telephone services to seek confidential support.
This site helps you locate resources to help you, anywhere in Australia.
A supportive app that helps you speak to ‘listeners’ who hear what you have to say in a judgement free way.
A mindfulness app that has various techniques to follow to help calm down your mind
(one of my personal favourites)
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
- Lifeline – 0800 534 354
Aim for the stars,