Have you ever walked into a psychiatrist’s office and tried to talk to them about playing too many video games, watching excessive Twitch or YouTube, and being stuck in life? What kind of response did you get?
In most cases, they probably advised you to “just stop playing video games”. Not only that, but it is also likely that you talked to them for 15 minutes, they gave you an antidepressant, and when you went home, your life did not change.
Mental health is getting worse all over the world. It has surpassed cardiovascular disease and cancer in terms of causing the most morbidity and mortality. That means that the cost of mental health in terms of lost workdays, impaired education, and mortality is worse than cardiovascular disease and cancer. Let’s explore how and why our current system isn’t cutting it, and why mental health is becoming such a big problem worldwide.
Why is Mental Health Getting Worse?
Our society’s primary defense against mental illness is psychiatric treatment. If you have a mental illness, you should see a licensed professional, such as a psychiatrist and a therapist. They should be able to help you with that.
However, somewhere along the way, mental stress and ordinary human experiences start to be called mental illnesses. Illness is when your body or brain does something that it is not supposed to do. It is a malfunction. Sometimes depression can be caused by a malfunction, such as a neurochemical imbalance.
Why Mental Illness is Rising
Feeling Stuck in Life is not a Mental Illness
However, feeling sad because you feel lost and stuck in life is not a malfunction. It would be a malfunction if your life was going wonderfully and something in your brain told you that you are an awful human being. That would be an actual illness because something in the brain is not functioning like it is supposed to. The good news is that our system trains psychiatrists and therapists to help you with that.
But the bad news is that for many people, their depression is congruent with reality. Congruent depression refers to a situation in which your life is not that great right now, and that is why you are sad.
Here are some of the characteristics of a depression that fits your reality:
- You don’t know what to do with your life.
- There is a distinct lack of purpose.
- You lack control over your life.
- Video games take up too much of your time.
- You struggle with depression and anxiety.
If this applies to you, why would you not feel sad? In that case, you are not mentally ill, and your brain is not malfunctioning. Your brain makes you feel bad when you find yourself in a situation that you don’t like. That is how it evolved, and that is how we survived. Therefore, your brain is functioning correctly.
Being stuck in life is not a mental illness. Therefore, when you don’t have a mental illness, an antidepressant would be ineffective. It can’t magically fix your life because you may not have a neurochemical imbalance.
However, the real problem is that nobody teaches us how to get unstuck. Nobody tells us how to take the next step towards a better life. Most of the advice we get is not actionable for our generation.
What Are the Issues with Mental Health?
The first issue is that many psychiatrists are not as effective as we thought. The average age of a psychiatrist is 55 years old. Most of them do not understand many of our generation’s issues, such as video game addiction, social media, FOMO, etc.
The second issue is that it can take months even to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. That is too long for someone in a critical phase of their life, such as college. The rest of their life could depend on whether they can get through college right now or not. Waiting for so many months is not an option for them.
The third problem is that mental health treatment is quite expensive. In the US, one session with a psychiatrist can cost $400-$500 per session. A person who is stuck in life and does not have a stable income source cannot afford that.
Therefore, psychiatry is too old, too slow, and too expensive.
Here’s why mental health is failing
Are Antidepressants Effective?
Some studies published in very reputable journals show that antidepressants are not as effective as we think. A paper published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) found that antidepressant medication had a small effect size (d = 0.2 on the Cohen Effect Size scale).
That means that antidepressants performed marginally better than placebo, and even this small difference could be due to sampling errors, biases, or chance. Moreover, antidepressants show a smaller effect size for depression rated as mild, moderate, or severe on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). But if it gets rated as very severe, they show a higher efficacy. Another study reports similar results.
One reason for this is that when people see a psychiatrist, not all of them are mentally ill. The pill works if you have a neurochemistry imbalance, but many people have a depression that fits their lives. They are not mentally ill; they are sad because their life is going nowhere.
A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 94% of the trials published showed a positive outcome for the efficacy of antidepressants. However, if we include data from studies that were not published, only 51% of the published studies showed a positive outcome. A separate meta-analysis of the FDA and journal data sets showed that effect sizes ranged from 11 to 69%, with an average of 32% overall efficacy. That indicates a heavy publication bias as only studies with favorable outcomes were published. Another study backs up up the efficacy of antidepressants and publication bias for the same.
Why Healthy Gamer has a Solution
We know that a psychiatrist, who usually has no lived experience of their client’s problems, can help them using expert knowledge. However, a person who has lived experience of their client’s problems can be very effective at helping them.
That is where peer-delivered recovery support services come in. On one end of the spectrum, we have psychiatrists, highly trained individuals who have never experienced addictions. On the other hand, we have Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors who have lived with addiction their entire lives but have no formal training.
At some point, someone had the brilliant idea of taking AA sponsors and training them in some psychiatric skills. As a result, a Peer Support Specialist was born. It is a lower-cost and treatment-sized effective intervention. Research has shown that personal experience with addiction combined with a distillation of evidence-based psychotherapy techniques such as motivational interviewing makes for a great coach.
The Healthy Gamer Coaching Program was born from this principle. It stems from the fact that what holds us back in life and prevents us from being happier is not necessarily a mental illness. Therefore, it does not necessarily need medical intervention.
Our coaches aim to help their clients:
- Find motivation
- Stop procrastinating
- Overcome feelings of guilt and shame
- Take control of their gaming habits.
- Understand themselves better.
The Healthy Gamer Coaching Program is needed because mental health is too old, too slow, too expensive, and too mistargeted. As a result, we need an army of peer-support specialists who understand our community’s problems.
How Effective is the Healthy Gamer Coaching Program?
After 12 weeks of Group Coaching, our clients saw a:
- 12% increase in purpose and meaning.
- 15% reduction in anxiety.
- 17% reduction in depression.
After 12 weeks of Personal Coaching, our clients saw a:
- 20% increase in purpose and meaning.
- 17% reduction in anxiety.
- 17% in depression.
- 3% increase in the positive effects of video games (which nobody except us measures).
Overall, we can see that the Healthy Gamer Coaching Program results in about 20% reduction in feelings of depression and a 20% increase in life purpose.
While it might seem that a 20% reduction in depression is not that much, it is a significant amount. What if you weighed 20% less or 20% more than you do now? What if you were 20% taller or 20% shorter?
It is especially significant for depression because that is all it takes for you to take the next step towards a better life. Imagine if you were 20% more excited to get out of bed in the morning. That effect will compound over time, and within a year, your life will start to change.
What Do Our Clients Say?
Our clients are delighted and grateful to have worked with a coach, and their life is changing. Our Coaches are highly dedicated and very smart. We tell our Coaches that if they give all their attention, compassion, and intelligence to one person for an hour every week, they can help their clients make a significant difference in their lives. It is quite astounding that our Coaches are people from the internet with a few months of training, and they have effect sizes that are arguably comparable to big pharma’s breakthrough drugs.
Please remember that the Healthy Gamer Coaching Program is not medical treatment. It is designed to help you move forward in life by giving you an understanding of how you work as a human being. Just because you’re depressed does not mean you are mentally ill. It might just mean that your life is not that great now, and we aim to help you with that. We want to help you learn how your mind works and enable you to play the game of life in the way you want.