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Syft Mental Health Series | Part 5

The fifth installment of the Mental Health Series features Jay Silver, who leads Syft’s League of Legends team and contributes articles about Pokemon, Among Us, and other topics to the site. 

In this installment, Silver talks about his history with video games from Club Penguin to League of Legends, a few games which helped him during COVID-19, the stigma of video games and mental health in society, and more.

Mental Health Series Part 5
Syft Mental Health Series | Part 5 6

An edited transcript is below. Each of the responses has been edited for clarity and concision.

HIS HISTORY WITH VIDEO GAMES

Jarrod: I want to get into your history with video games.

Jay: I’ve always been into video games; I’ve enjoyed it since I was younger. Me and my sister often played Club Penguin and then dove into Wizard101, Kingsisle’s megahit. My main start with video games was probably around middle school, when I got my first handheld system: the Nintendo 3DS XL. My family had the Wii, and we used to play all those classic family games, but never games I wanted to play on my own. 

For a birthday gift, I got a DS — I played Pokemon Black and White. I was playing games like Pokemon X and Y. Then my friends made this foolish decision to introduce me to League of Legends in 2015 and that’s been my principal game recently.

I got my Switch in 2019 and that’s primarily where I play a lot of my games when I’m on the road. I play your typical games: Pokemon Sword and Shield, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I finally just beat Super Mario 3D

Jarrod: Do you have a favorite of all time?

Mental Health
Courtesy of Riot Games

Jay: League of Legends I feel would be the easiest choice. Also Brawl Stars is up there. If I had to choose one, I would definitely say League of Legends over Brawl Stars.

Jarrod: Can you recall a particularly memorable joy or happiness when you played League

Jay: I was able to get something called a pentakill, which is when one person is able to kill all five enemies. After five years of playing the game, I got it on probably the most broken champion, “Urgot.” The other moment was when I played as Rakan. I was able to hop into what we called the “Baron Nashor Pit” and steal the baron away from the other team. I died in the process, but it was all worth it. We won the game from that.

Jarrod: When we’re talking about League, it’s obviously given you some good memories. What about League stood out to you as being your favorite game?

Jay: I need to go backwards a little bit: I’ve been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety [Disorder] and depression. I’ve been dealing with those since I was about three or four years old. With that came some minor developmental issues in the social development world where often I would end up isolating myself to play games.

I’ve made a lot of friends over the last five or six years of my life who play League of Legends. Being able to play with them and being able to work for a company that allows me to explore my creative freedoms has helped. There are a lot of community elements and there’s a lot of challenge in the game that allows me to find a minor window of happiness. 

HOW VIDEO GAMES AFFECTED HIS MENTAL HEALTH AND LIFE

Jarrod: How did video games affect your mental health and life as a whole? Did video games help you get through a specific time that was less than desirable?

Jay: I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was much younger, probably about three or four years old; that’s when I was first diagnosed. I’ve been dealing with [anxiety and depression] ever since and building up my own stamina, my own strengths. I think, for me, the biggest culmination of everything happened during the pandemic. 

At that time, I had to leave school, the physical campus, lost my in-person graduation, lost the first three months of my masters in-person, returned home to a part-time job while being a student in a master’s program, working unfair hours and really just struggling. Then this happy little game came along called Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Mental Health
Courtesy of Nintendo

I feel like it put me into a routine, into a standpoint that was like, ‘Okay, I can check this each morning,’ and just see what I need to do and what needs to get done. I really feel like the game alleviated a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety. My anxiety would have been much worse if I didn’t have the video games outlet.

At the same time, I feel like it’s not just playing the games, it’s understanding the effects that come with. The game gave me that sense of community, upbringing and togetherness that I’d lacked for my entire life up until college.

HOW HIS VIEW ON VIDEO GAMES CHANGED OVER TIME

Jarrod: Over time, how have your views on video games changed and, conversely, when you play games, what does it make you feel?

Jay: I think my view and my feelings have pretty much stayed the same. It’s a realm I can kind of escape to and use to put my difficult life on hold. Over time, we’ve also realized that a lot of these games that cover more real world topics are very prevalent and need to be continued and discussed more, rather than ignored.

THOUGHTS ON THE GAMING SPACE’S TOXICITY/SOLUTIONS

Jarrod: I just want to get your thoughts on toxicity in the video game community and what we can do to mitigate that toxicity so that others’ mental healths aren’t as degraded.

Jay: I feel like we need to report on this more often, in a different way from your editorial pieces. I think we need to be able to reach out to more professionals and talk about this issue more. I also feel like writers shouldn’t be restricted to their specific beats or coverage, but rather have some creative freedoms and liberties. To be able to not only cover what they need to do, but also in the case of mental health articles like, ‘Hey, I want to contribute to this, I have a mental health issue, I want to be vocal about this.’ 

Silence is your worst enemy in these cases.

THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF VIDEO GAMES ON MENTAL HEALTH

Jarrod: In your opinion, how can video games help someone’s mental health?

Jay: I feel like games that are simplistic in objective – like farming or doing a simple task – which also allow us to interact with family members and friends and other people from all over the world are more impactful than making a donation. 

Of course, donations go a long way, but I feel developing more games with a sense of community and a sense of identification that also introduce characters with similar issues is commendable. I think you need to be a lot more inclusive of individuals and talk about more of these issues within your game, but also allow community development and community aspects.

Mental Health
Courtesy of Supercell

I feel like that’s important. Sometimes, you may need some extra support and an extra support group. Being able to take some time to play a video game with your friends may be more beneficial than a therapy session, and this is coming from someone who’s been in therapy for almost his entire life.

Jarrod: That’s a very, very interesting point: gaming with friends could be more beneficial than therapy.

Jay: It all depends on the person obviously. But sometimes it’s like, ‘Hey, I need a distraction. I need to be with my friends right now.’ Maybe that clicks in your mind a little more than sitting in therapy, dwelling on your issues.

CHANGING THE STIGMA OF MENTAL HEALTH IN SOCIETY

that first conversation [about my mental health] and her understanding that, was a giant relief.Jarrod: What do you think can be done to change the stigma of mental health in society?

Jay: Number one, you need to address the societal issues that are being held. Number two, I think you need to start with your inner person and know when it’s OK to say, whether it be to a significant other, employer, or family member, that ‘I’m not OK, I need help.’ 

Addressing the question, saying ‘I need help,’ can do more than a law or bill can ever do. Then it needs to be the reception: the employer or significant other needs to understand that health, nowadays, is no longer just physical — you don’t need to break a bone to have a mental health day.

Jarrod: In a way, just opening up that conversation, being able to tell people “I need some time for myself, because right now I’m just feeling some type of way.”

Jay: I completely agree. There’s a lot of dialogue that needs to happen in order to address mental health. For me, it’s very obvious seeing what needs to be done. But we’re in a society where a lot of people will take a different approach, and it’s very difficult to have these conversations. Even myself, talking to my girlfriend and having

CHANGING THE STIGMA OF VIDEO GAMES IN SOCIETY

Jarrod: I just want to posit this question to you: what can be done to change the stigma of video games in society?

Mental Health
Courtesy of Inner Sloth

Jay: You need to get the video game communities involved. I think you’ve seen that with the Among Us craze, you’ve seen a lot of people like Corpse Husband and Valkyrae being promoted to use video games to make positive impacts, like charity streams. 

I think the other thing is, there need to be some laws in this country to aid mental health. I feel like the first thing you need to do is make sure that mental health is secured, make sure that things are OK for the people. I think making sure the social issues causing mental health issues are also looked at while also heavily drilling that mental health is an issue.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Jay: The big thing I always say is that it is OK to not be OK. That’s always what I tell people when they’re having mental health-related issues. We live in a world where we shouldn’t have to completely devolve into isolationism — we need to know that it is OK to take a step back and really think about what’s going on in life. 

If you need help, you should reach out to get help. If you are feeling alone or feeling any sort of harm or anything like that, I highly encourage you to dial 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I feel like the cases of suicide has been rising, ever so slightly. Know there are resources out there for you to get the help you need.

You can check out the other entries in the series here.

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