Jennifer is a popular YouTuber. Jennifer loves video games. But Jennifer is also a medical doctor passionate about mental health and psychiatry. Here's what she decided with those two opposing parts of her life: fuse them. The result: Prescription Pixel. A brand new website dedicated to creating a safe space for gamers to discuss mental health issues. If you're struggling, Prescription Pixel is a safe space where you can find support, solace and a way forward.
"Here's the elevator pitch," explains Jen. "Prescription Pixel is a safe space to explore mental health, specifically designed for people in the gaming community. The site is a collection of resources: including lots of information aimed at all levels, self-help tips, an overview of current research, an entire sub-site dedicated to the growing relationship between mental health and video games, and lots more."
With the stigma surrounding mental health issues, it can be difficult to seek help, or admit that you need help to begin with. Jennifer's goal with Prescription Pixel is to create an online resource that bypasses that. There are people like us, who play games. People who also have there own issues with mental health. It's common.
Prescription Pixel has been a real labour of love from Jennifer, who built the site from scratch and helped create or source all the content currently available on the site.
"I really do hope that it will be a reliable and useful support to those who may be in a struggle," she explains.
"Despite us all existing on a spectrum of mental health, it has been so stigmatised - particularly in gaming media - that sadly very few of us feel able to talk about it. I want Pixel to help to change that. What I've seen since I started doing this is how passionately people feel about supporting one another, and often all it takes is an appropriate place to get the ball rolling. The response has been incredible, inspiring, and heartwarming. I want that to continue."
The response Jennifer refers to focuses on the 'Your Stories' section of the Prescription Pixel: over 1200 personal stories about video games and mental health. It's powerful: testament to the fact there are others out there who share in the struggle, who have similar difficulties. The overwhelming message: you are not alone. This is not abnormal. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
"These represent a wide variety of genres and gaming contexts and there are definitely some surprises in there! In a different direction there is also a list of games about mental health. These may not be "therapeutic" as such but they are a wonderful way of sharing someone else's experience and learning, cathartically, about life with a mental health issue."
Looking forward, Jennifer hopes that the Presciption Pixel service will help those in the medical profession pay more attention to video games and their potential therapeutic benefits.
"There is certainly some published data to support this, but in the medical world there's still a big void of knowledge when it comes to video games," she says. "If we can make a big enough deal about a service like this, then that enthusiasm will start to leak into the clinical world and we may get some real gusto behind clinical research.
"Video games are inherently motivating. That is how developers get us to come back again and again. They balance just right that movement between challenge and reward, in a way that activates dopamine release - this is like having a rush of "good feeling". Games are also very involving - and can engage a large proportion of your attention resources quite easily. In theory, that means that games have the potential to help improve mood, motivation, and a variety of other outcomes, if designed and used in the right way."
Ultimately, Jennifer sees Prescription Pixel as the beginning of something. Potentially, she hopes, a service like this can positively affect the lives of those dealing with mental health issues.
"Game players want to talk about mental health and games themselves are an exciting new direction for therapeutic purposes. As long as it's not done intrusively, having a resource available like this and trying to mould the future of game research, I hope will be world-changing."
Head to Prescription Pixel to find out more.