For some, mental health is a daily struggle. A struggle that many suffer in silence, alone.
Not long ago the videogame industry learned the tragic news that freelance journalist Matt Hughes had passed away. Matt had sent out emails to his editors for the sites where he freelanced. Jason Schreier of Kotaku writes “He said he would no longer be able to contribute or take on more freelance assignments because he would be dead.”
Many of the recipients thought this was just a prank or that someone had hacked his account and was mucking around. Then GamesRadar’s editor Sophia Tong wrote that she’d contacted the police station and found out he had taken his life.
I’ve tried to write this piece so many times. Each time I get so far before ditching it. I want to write something that highlights the tragedy of Matt’s situation and offers something constructive to those who need help. If truth be told though, no amount of words can do justice to Matt and his family. Nothing replaces the loss of a loved one, and the only way of fixing the problem simply isn’t possible.
Depression is an illness that affects one in four of us. Think about that next time you meet up with three of your closest friends or when you’re standing in line waiting to be served.
What makes this statistic more frightening is the strong evidence linking creativity with mental health problems. In an article for the BBC, Michelle Roberts reported that according to the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute, writers have a higher risk of anxiety, bipolar disorders, and depression.
The article also contained this line:
“[Writers] were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.”
The article was published October 17, only a few weeks before the Matt Hughes tragedy.
If one in four of the general population suffers from a mental health problem, how does that number increase or decrease when we look at an industry like videogames; an industry built on creativity? Do we need to start looking at our teams, our staff, our developers, our publishers and start asking, “Is there anything we can do to help?” If the statistic does indeed increase, then we could be faced with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who are suffering in silence.
One of the biggest issues with mental health is the stigma that comes with it: Anxiety is people who worry too much. Depression is when you feel a little bit glum (chin up mate, it could be worse). Bipolar is a disorder that causes people to rock backwards and forwards in their living room collecting government cheques as they talk to their imaginary friends.
With these kinds of stigmata to overcome, it’s much, much easier to keep your condition hidden for fear of misconception. Who wants their friends, colleagues or readers knowing they have something that most would palm off as being crazy? Who actively wants to be treated differently?
When you admit to having a mental health problem, your biggest fear is that people will treat you differently. That’s why I’ve kept quiet for the past year. You see, Wesley Copeland is my pseudonym; the face I put on for the public. In real life, my friends call me Ad, and my friends know I’m bipolar.
I’m what you’d consider one of the lucky ones; although anyone with a metal health condition is sure to agree that there’s no such as ‘the lucky ones’. Those of us who manage to pass through to the other side of it knows it takes a LOT of hard work, focus, micro-management, support, talking, retraining of one’s brain, and in a lot of cases, medication.
Why am I ‘one of the lucky ones’? It’s because of writing.
On the outside, Videogames Interactive looked like a gaming blog; a website to generate income for its owner. On the inside, VGI was my escape. I’ve suffered from mental health problems since I was 16 (I’m 29 as of writing this), so it’s safe to say I’ve tried a plethora of different ways to ‘fix’ me. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started writing professionally that I realized writing was the release I so desperately craved.
I needed a way of focusing my bipolar into something beneficial to me. Writing is just that. It’s a way of focusing my own personal crazy into something positive (that and a horse-worth of medication, breathing exercises, thought-challenging, and a myriad other things I’ve forgot I even do).
Do you remember Newbsround? That is my condition on a platform. Without it, these zany, off-the-wall ideas wouldn’t happen.
Of course, this is me after years and years of working with my condition instead of against it. If I could give one piece of advice it’s this:
Talk more. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Chances are, they won’t treat you differently. Chances are, we only think they’ll treat us differently. Chances are, it might just help.
That’s why a team of super-journalists and doctors have banded together to create the Take This Project, so that we can talk about metal health problems openly. Take This is a website set up in memory of Matt Hughes for the one in four of us that needs help or for the family and friends of someone who needs help. It asks the questions: Should we be talking about this more? Do we need to start looking at our teams, our staff, our developers, our publishers and start asking: “Is there anything we can do to help?”
Take This makes one simple, yet hugely important statement about mental health problems – it’s also an apt line from The Legend of Zelda:
“It’s dangerous to go alone.”
For more on the Take This Project, click on the following link:
Or for more information on mental health conditions, visit Mind.org at:
Or if you’re state-side, visit MHA: