The goal is to keep discussions about mental health in the games industry in the spotlight. Charity manager Sarah Sorrell talks to GameDaily about the initiative.
This week, video game charity Safe In Our World announced a new initiative aimed at raising awareness of mental health during the month of May. The goal of the campaign is to highlight the unifying power of the video game medium and encourage positive mental health practices while engaging with our favorite games.
The theme for the initiative is “Together for Mental Health,” highlighted by the “Play Your Way” campaign. Here, Safe In Our World is encouraging players to spend time with the games that mean the most to them. Meanwhile, the organization will offer a series of talks and discussions throughout May centered on mental health in the games industry.
For Sarah Sorrell, charity manager at Safe In Our World, Play Your Way is an ideal way to promote the organization’s message.
“We're connecting with the gaming community in a way that we know resonates with so many players,” Sorrell told GameDaily. “Playing the games that mean the most to each of us is how we thrive on our personal connections with mental health and gaming.”
Different players turn to different games in times of turmoil; while some may find the relaxing vibes of Animal Crossing ideal, others prefer to unwind with Dark Souls, a title with a reputation earned through its difficulty. As such, Sorrell hopes the open-ended nature of the Play Your Way campaign can attract a wide variety of players.
“It’s the variety of games that players hold close to their hearts that highlights the individuality of these relationships and allows us to explore our personal gaming dynamic.”
It’s not just players that Safe in our World hopes to address, however. When the organization was founded in 2019, part of the goal was to support industry workers. The games business is notorious for being physically and mentally taxing thanks to issues like crunch and harassment. Exacerbating the problem is a lack of mental health resources for workers, a gap that Safe In Our World seeks to fill.
“There was a clear need for more to be done within the games industry space, to be able to ensure people felt safe to talk about mental health, whether they were in need of support or knew of someone one in need,” Sorrell explained. “For us, we wanted to help inspire and encourage companies to communicate with their staff and allow for these conversations to be destigmatized so that nobody is afraid to reach out for help if they need it. That’s how Safe In Our World was formed, and while we’re extremely proud of our early accomplishments thanks to the involvement of so many, we have so much more to do.”
Just a year after the 2019 founding of Safe In Our World, the world was struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ensuing lockdowns and quarantine efforts thrust discussions of mental health into the spotlight in a big way. Amid the isolation, many turned to video games as a primary source of entertainment. In response, Safe In Our World launched a COVID-19 hub on its site. It’s a collection of resources and stories for those of us struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety brought about by the pandemic.
“We wanted to make it as easy as we can to signpost people to useful resources, charities, and even games that we think could be of use during this turbulent time,” Sorrell said of the hub.
Here, Safe In Our World offers suggestions for games that might help people cope with isolation, and highlights the unifying qualities of games. There are even pieces on relaxation techniques and how to stay positive during lockdown.
As the pandemic seemingly begins to wane, Safe In Our World is not resting on its laurels. In fact, the organization is strengthening its operations and fundraising efforts, as the Together for Mental Health campaign makes apparent. Further, the group has made a pair of notable hires in Benn Wiebe and Sky Tunley-Stainton, who will serve as the strategy and corporate partnerships officer and partnerships and training officer, respectively.
“We are very excited to welcome them both to Safe In Our World,” Sorrell said of the pair. “Benn brings a proven history of developing corporate partnerships and raising funds, and has previously been brought into companies to lead on strategies around launching global campaigns for social impact. Whereas Sky brings a wealth or HR experience and is well-versed cultivating and developing partnerships providing an excellent level of support. Together, they will make an excellent addition to our team and help take us to the next level.”
Beyond these new hires and the Together for Mental Health campaign, Safe In Our World offers a number of resources for people--players and industry workers alike--to utilize. For instance, the group recently launched a podcast that features interviews and discussions about mental health. There’s also a “Safer Together” Discord channel (discord.gg/safertogether) where participants can chat and access the other resources offered by Safe In Our World.
Sorrell also said that 2022 will see a number of other initiatives from Safe In Our World after May. But the primary goal is to keep facilitating the mental health discussion.
“Above all we just want everyone to keep talking about mental health and to know you’re never alone, and it’s ok to not be ok all the time. We are here to help.”
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