Gaming Communities Can Save Lives
Here I was, thinking I could just go to bed, but then I ended up reading the sweetest story. I was looking at things I could write about tomorrow, and then I ended up stumbling across a post about an EMT who saved a young man from suicidal tendencies by talking to him about World of Warcraft. Not only was this story on the forums an amazing read, but the commentary as well. On the official forums, there are plenty of encouraging posts congratulating Isemia for going above and beyond the call of duty by not only treating this poor, depressed kid who made a serious attempt at suicide because he was bullied at school, but also for being respectful and empathetic. I love when I find humble, humanizing stories for gaming, and how, when we work together, we can do some amazing acts of good for each other. Because of this, I'm choosing writing about it instead of going to sleep before midnight on a Saturday.
Not only did these words of encouragement pour out to thank Isemia for talking a random person into playing WoW, but for Isemia also handing the kid $20 to go towards talking his mom into helping him purchase and subscribe to the game. I'd hate to spoiler alert this, but if you find yourself simply unable to read Isemia's post, here is the ending: a month after the incident, there's a knock on the EMT office door. Isemia, playing WoW, answers the door to find a lady who looks familiar, but her familiarity doesn't sink in until the same kid from a month ago appears in sight. Among the hugs and thanks, the once suicidal young man is now rejuvenated; rather than sullenly talking about being bullied at school, he is talking about making friends, his first try tanking a dungeon as a warrior, and how he has a renewed sense of life. His mother ends the conversation with another hug and thanks, and repays the $20.
It doesn't end there. I noticed this more on the corresponding post in the /r/wow subreddit, but there are plenty of other tales from people who have piped up to discuss how World of Warcraft and other MMOGs have saved their lives, as well. When you're suffering from depression and crippling anxiety, keeping up with interpersonal relationships becomes nearly impossible to keep up with. While I would never suggest replacing therapy and professional help with gaming, having a social experience that you are able to deal with in whatever mental state is a good start. There are plenty of people out there who are unable to seek the help they need, but they form relationships with folks who can help their guildmates get the help they seek.
The Reddit post is full of tales of people who wanted to commit suicide. One talks about how he (or she, I hate to make assumptions here) was so suicidal, that when it was said in guild chat that he/she was feeling suicidal, guildmates not only called the police, but also showed up in person at the residence. This Redditor had never met these guildmates before, but from other online interactions, they knew where to go and those in the same town showed up in person to be supportive. This is such a touching experience, and I'm sure this person is extremely thankful to have had the support needed to seek out help. Not everyone is able to do this, unfortunately, and there is too much of a stigma attached to mental health in this country. There is nothing to be embarrassed about and we've all been in the shit before. If you're overwhelmed, do what you can to ease that pain and gain mental clarity, whether it's yoga, a walk or interacting with the community you've become a part of in a game.
In this day and age, the lines between online and offline friends are blurred. The world is accessible to anyone with an internet connection and gaming more than helps facilitate that. When you aren't able to go out and create meaningful interactions in the real world, the gaming world has become set up to the point where you can have just as meaningful interactions online. I've met some terrific people over the years; I've watched friends and their families grow up. I've been there when a friend's spouse deals with ongoing surgery from a debilitating injury. I've helped countless people with their homework over the years. Friends I've never met in real life have helped me through this past year when I've lost one of my best friends of the past 25 years, my mother, and most recently, my father. I've had gaming friends reach out to me just as much as those I've met in real life and do not game with. I'm just as thankful to have them in my life.
If you're feeling down, stepped on, bullied, or anything that you feel is not normal, do not keep it bottled up – talk to someone! Whether it's your guildmates because you need to be talked down from a panic attack or a therapist, there are people out there who will support you. A good friend of mine (whom I've never met, but we've gamed together) uses Twitter as a method to tell people when he's feeling down. It's not much, but I like to send him pictures of cute animals, and I know he's quite partial to capybaras. Myself, along with his other friends, can come together and lift his spirits. When a lot of people do plenty of small things to make one person's day brighter, it's proof that we, as gamers, can come together to make this world a better place for all of us.
Please, I implore you, talk to someone. You'd be surprised at who will listen – and who wants to listen. For professional (and often anonymous) help, there are suicide hotlines where people absolutely will help you. If you feel there is no one in your life you can turn to, please try a hotline (US, or European listings – anyone replying to this article with other hotlines for other countries, I will edit this with any other information for legitimate help). When the world feels chaotic and that it doesn't make any sense, there are plenty of us out there who are deeply empathetic and we do want you to succeed in life. You will find the help you need! While it's not much, I'm armed with tons of dumb gifs, goat pictures, and internet hugs. Be well, friends.