How gaming supported my mental health

When we think of ‘gamers’ we might automatically think of someone who is isolated and perhaps even antisocial. However, in recent years, there’s been more talk about how gaming can actually benefit mental health and help form tight-knit social networks and communities online. We hear from two avid gamers about how the hobby has supported their wellbeing, and what gamers can do to maintain their mental health whilst playing.


“Gaming has always been my escape, even before being able to connect with others online. I was a lonely, bullied kid with an emotionally abusive mother, so retreating into gaming – typically story-driven games – allowed me to switch off and become somebody else for a while. Once it became possible to connect with others online, it allowed me to find and foster friendships I otherwise wouldn’t have. Some of my best friends now are people I found through various games, and although we are spread across the globe, we can connect and work together as teammates. Social anxiety and depression sometimes make it difficult, but they’re always there.

Gaming has occasionally been a maladaptive coping mechanism, and “switching off” can easily become dissociation and avoidance of dealing with problems. It’s important to treat it with moderation. The concept of “touching grass” has become a meme among gamers, encouraging avid gamers to get outside and literally “touch grass” as a reminder that the real world exists, but the idea has some merit. It’s important to engage with the real world, to get outside if you can, when you start to feel listless. Gaming isn’t a cure for poor mental health; it can be a powerful tool, but seeking psychiatric care and seeing a therapist are every bit as important, if not moreso.”

"Some of my best friends now are people I found through various games."

– Alexander

“There’s a stereotype that gamers isolate themselves from others, that they can be obsessive, or that the content of the game can be harmful to mental health. While this might be true for some, it’s not always the case. Depending on the game, communities form both outside and inside of the game itself, allowing people to join forces or simply experience the world together. Story-wise, one of my favourite recent stories in gaming explored the idea of finding hope in the face of overwhelming despair, and how that hope can be a powerful tool against depression.” – Alexander 

“Gaming gave me a community and space where I could be myself and find likeminded people to talk to in a safe, judgement free environment. One particular aspect I have particularly enjoyed is the sense of community and belonging, people that just seem to ‘get me’. I really struggle toward the evening and at night time as this is when my mental health can get particularly bad. I find that spending time with friends I’ve made through gaming online, is a really lovely and useful distraction from the troubles I am experiencing during those times.

I think there’s a big stereotype that people who play games are ‘sweaty nerdy introverts’ who make little social interaction. In my experience this is far from the truth, many people from different backgrounds enjoy gaming. The friends I have made and the people I have met have been some of the most kind, empathetic and open people that I’ve ever met online. I also think there is a misconception that people who game purely want to escape from their own reality, and whilst this can be true, in my experience people also game to find a sense of belonging and community within their current world and reality, making real connections and meeting new people.”

" It isn’t just an online space, it can feed into your life and you can make friends who you meet up with in real life."

– Rich

“I can easily lose a lot of time playing games, so I make sure to regularly stand up, stretch and take breaks. When I do this, I make sure to also take my headset off completely, to be fully immersed in ‘reality’ for a bit, as well as giving my hands and wrists a break. I think people can make sure it remains positive outlet for them by ensuring they foster and nurture their relationships offline too, and not rely solely on online friendships. It’s also important to remember that ultimately gaming exists so that people can have fun and enjoy themselves, and if you’re not doing that, then it might be time to take a break. Gaming is supposed to be fun, and you don’t have to take it too seriously to enjoy it.” – Rich

Mental Health UK have been encouraging healthy gaming habits that form connections and enable people to have fun all whilst raising money for the charity. Our fundraising activity ‘Reset for Mental Health‘ allows gamers to get online and play, build an audience and talk about mental health. People can donate directly to the charity, whilst they watch you.


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