Few healthcare systems, if any, are capable of fully meeting the needs of patients affected by the many existing mental diseases; from addiction-related syndromes, to stress disorders, or more severe conditions, even though these disorders are more common than you think, and can affect everyone. So why is mental health not a priority? The obvious answer would be the lack of resources, but we must not forget that this is paired with an even greater barrier, the social stigma that mental problems are associated with. The result of this lack of social and institutional support is that, for many different reasons, patients often go undiagnosed or untreated.
In this context, Serious Games can, as a part of the therapy, provide a safe place for the patient to work on his or her problems, without the fear of rejection or insecurity that many experience when faced with the task of openly sharing their problem – with the advantages of being available 24/7 and be cost effective at the same time.
As evidence of their utility, some healthcare systems such as the UK’s NHS have already started exploring the possibilities of computer-based therapies, such as “Beating the Blues”, a course made up of 8 online sessions, to deal with anxiety or depression-related disorders. But video games such as “Elude” go even further than computer-based therapies, as they replace the very explicit “therapy mood” with a more subtle, engaging (and fun!) experience.
“Elude” is a simple but very addictive game that metaphorically portrays depression as a hole you get out of by jumping and pursuing the little joys of life (birds) , which in turn, make you jump higher and higher, up into the sky. And like “Elude”, there are many other great serious games (Nevermind, Lumosity) out there that can help raise awareness or identify and treat mental disorders – so let’s start using them!