Mental health support for gaming enthusiasts

By Sharon Smith
Wednesday, 14 October, 2015


The Penny Arcade Expo Australia or PAX Aus is one of the largest gatherings of pop culture in Australia, bringing together video games, tabletop games, cosplay, panels and presentations, concerts, friendly LANs and professional e-sports in the one place in Melbourne from 30 October to 2 November this year.
It’s a place for geeks to get together and share their enthusiasm for their hobbies, but it can be an overwhelming experience too. Which is why a group of mental health ambassadors decided to step in and arm their comrades with the help they need.
Take This logo
TakeThis.org was founded in 2012 to promote awareness of mental health issues in the video gaming community. The website offers a kind of self-help portal, but in 2014 the organisation expanded their services to provide a quiet space at PAX conventions. This space is called the AFK (away from keyboard) Room and it has been a great success at PAX conventions in the US. Now in 2015 the founders of Take This, along with local coordinators Jennifer Hazel and Jane Cocks are bringing the AFK Room to Australia through PAX Aus.
Visitors to the room may simply want a break from the intense stress and stimulation of the convention, or they may have questions or thoughts about mental health matters to discuss.
Organiser Jane Cocks says, “In the past, organisers of the room have had one or two cases of people coming to the room in distress, but we do not provide an official clinical service. We triage and use PAX Aus staff to help such folks find the help they need locally.”
In order to make this room a success, the AFK Room are looking for more registered clinician volunteers. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can be involved, and also receive a badge to enjoy the PAX Aus convention, please email Jane directly at jane.cocks@adelaide.edu.au.
Jane Cocks is currently doing doctoral research with the Engage Research Lab at the University of Sunshine Coast. Her multidisciplinary research draws from both Psychology and Game Design and will endeavour to construct a comprehensive framework of game design for positive behaviour and cognitive change.

Aside from being a full time psychiatry trainee Jennifer Hazel is also doing research into the potential therapeutic benefits of video games in the fields of psychiatry, mental health and wellness. Jennifer also runs an online initiative at www.prescriptionpixel.com - this is a free, accessible resource for mental health in the gaming community.

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