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How Safe In Our World Is Changing Gaming’s Understanding Of Mental Health

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How Safe In Our World Is Changing Gaming’s Understanding Of Mental Health

Safe In Our World is a gaming-focused charity launched on World Mental Health Day 2019, that aims to both open conversations up around the topic of mental health, and serve as a route to resources for those who are looking for help.

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Established by Gareth Williams, Leo Zullo and Neil Broadhead, it is, in its own words, aiming "to create and foster worldwide mental health awareness within the video game industry and beyond; to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health, to make it a natural topic of discussion, and to promote the dialogue surrounding mental health so people are not afraid to reach out for help if they need it."

We spoke to Safe In Our World's Rosie Taylor about the work being done at the charity, and how we can all play a part in normalising discussion about and understanding of mental health.

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Above: we speak to Twitch streamer Marie Shanley - aka Mxiety - about her experiences of devastating anxiety

GB: One of the biggest aims of SIOW is raising awareness of mental health issues amongst an audience, notably a gaming audience, that might not experience any issues itself. How do you feel you're progressing with that mission?

RT: We have found that our mission resonates with so many people because so many gamers and game-makers either directly or indirectly experience mental health issues at some point in their life. It's so important to educate those who have not experienced such issues, so that we can continue to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health that is still a prevalent issue in so many communities. Being aware of what Safe In Our World is, and what we are here for helps people know where to signpost people who might not have heard of us, and could potentially help a fellow colleague or gamer find the help that they need.

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While we're still quite a young charity, we're so proud of what we've managed to achieve already. Through our Level Up Mental Health Campaign, we have so many dedicated industry partners who help spread our message across their platforms and to their employees.

We've recently announced our Community Manager Mental Health Training Programme, which has been fully funded by the Jingle Jam 2020. This course will enable Community Managers to be equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to know how to discuss mental health within their respective communities, as well as take care of themselves.

Our latest announcement has been the launch of our brand new public Discord server, Safer Together. Safer Together will provide a space for gamers and industry folk to connect, discuss games and be a safe community for everybody.

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While it's important to recognise there's a lot of work still to be done, with our existing campaigns and so much more on the horizon, we're confident we can continue to raise vital awareness within the gaming audiences so that everyone feels as though they can reach out for support if they need it.

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Above: we speak to presenter Simon Hill about using games to motivate real-world change for the better

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What are the challenges involved with opening eyes and attitudes to the fact that video games can be beneficial for mental health - especially when they're still often demonised in certain areas of the media?

We've found that our Hero Stories help to open people's eyes, as seeing key figures discuss mental health openly within the industry can shine a light on the positivity that video games can offer. There are more and more studies coming out recently that discuss the benefits of gaming on our mental health, and it highlights the need for updated and non-biased studies to support this.

We've seen so many people turn to games throughout the lockdowns and pandemic to help support them, whether in a social capacity or a temporary escape from the world. With such a huge variety of games and options for people to choose from, there can be something for everybody to discover!

You launched Level Up in 2020. Can you explain what that initiative is about, and the successes it's had so far? Has the Covid-19 pandemic put increased strain on UK games industry workplaces?

Level Up Mental Health is our keystone initiative for the industry, and asks all companies within the video games industry to commit to change, and ensure that their workplace environment is safe and supportive for their team's mental health at all times. As of March 2021, we have over 50 Level Up Partners, who have committed to change within their companies.

From a census in 2020, 31% of those working within our industry experience anxiety, depression or both, when the national average is just 17%.

It's difficult to predict just how much the pandemic has put strain on the industry, but the move to remote working, and added pressures of new ways of working to deadlines is a factor that must be considered as well. With such a rise in output within the industry over the last 12 months, the pressure to produce more is there, but will differ between companies and studios depending on their practises and projects.

Provision of resources is a vital service you offer - how do you assess those, to ensure that anyone who comes to SIOW for advice finds the most beneficial links?

On our helplines page, we regularly ensure that it's as localised and as inclusive as we possibly can. Recent examples include working alongside other charities to ensure that we have as many options as possible, and specific to certain crises and illnesses. We also listen to our audience and our supporters, and if they feel like something is missing, or could be expanded, we update our resources accordingly.

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Above: we speak to Doug Cockle, star of The Witcher games, about mental health in lockdown

You've some well-known patrons, like The Witcher actor Doug Cockle - who we recently spoke to about mental health matters - and the streamer Hannah Rutherford. What role do these people play in carrying the SIOW message?

Our patrons are vital in lending their voice to support our message, and spread our awareness to a wider audience. The more people who are aware of the resources that we offer, the higher chance we can help someone in need. We welcome anyone who resonates with our message and wants to help support us, and having esteemed patrons such as Doug and Hannah adds weight to what we're looking to achieve.

The Hero Stories on site, as we've seen with Marie and Simon (who've talked to us about their experiences - please check out the embedded videos in this article), are of great importance to delivering the message of mental health awareness.

We often have messages through our social media and our websites claiming that they read a story on our website and felt empowered to tell their own story, or to reach out for support. It's one of the most rewarding things that we get to see.

How can our readers support what you do?

The most important thing for Safe In Our World is being able to support in sharing our mission and our initiatives, so we continue to reduce stigma and create a safe and supportive community within the video games sphere.

All of the funds raised for Safe In Our World are from the generosity of our partners and our supporters, and every penny that is raised for Safe In Our World goes back into our day-to-day operations and future initiatives to keep driving positive change. We welcome public donations and fundraisers to enable us to do as much as we possibly can.

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Find more information on Safe In Our World at safeinourworld.org. There are also further resources that can help provide mental health support, including MIND, Samaritans, and CALM:

www.mind.org.uk
0300 123 3393

Featured Image Credit: Safe In Our World / Night in the Woods published by Finji

Topics: Mental Health, The Witcher, Interview

Mike Diver
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