The news of Robin William’s death was tough. In the wake of this incredible loss, it leaves me thinking how important gaming is for many individuals.
I’ll start by being brutally clear: I’m never going to claim that gaming “cures” depression. Not anything close. We have to start this discussion by laying down the facts. Clinical Depression, as defined by the DSM-5, is not “being sad”. It is not the same as the sadness that can follow a death or the sadness from another life event. It is not the same as feeling isolated due to societal pressures, although that isolation can certainly exacerbate it. Clinical depression is a neurochemical imbalance and is not a choice.
There are things in the world that can help to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Chief among these are psychological counseling and anti-depressant medications. Even then, anti-depressants are hard to match to the specific biochemical imbalances of individuals. What works for one person can be completely ineffective for many others. This isn’t evidence of the medication being categorically ineffective (a common misconception). It is evidence that depression is a complex disorder.
Does gaming help with depression? There appears to be research on both sides. In my extensive training as an educator, a critical aspect of what I have learned is that people who have access to peers that they can relate to and share experiences with are less likely to have as severe symptoms than those who don’t. People take drastic measures when they feel they have no options. One thing we all can do is to be potential options for people through dedicated caring.
Robin Williams was a gamer. We should be supporting each other’s struggles, even if we don’t understand them and can’t “fix” them, through our shared interests.