‘Dungeons and dragons’ to protect mental health | Masters 2022

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  ‘Dungeons and dragons’ to protect mental health

Alicia Bergés remembers the control of a console in her hands since she can remember. For many years, video games were a link with her parents, a family pastime. When she began to experience bullying, they became a refuge and a tool to “keep anxiety and suicidal thoughts at bay.” Her parents, due to her ignorance, made her responsible for what was happening, so her relationship with them cooled. She is still dealing in therapy with the aftermath of the harassment she experienced in her native Tarragona. She is now 32 years old, she lives in Barcelona and is a teacher.

The harassment, the insults and the lack of support from those around her made Bergés feel safer between screens: “Playing was an escape route that I didn’t have in real life”. Being able to reach the next level of a game or get the rewards they asked for made him feel “capable”. In Spain, 11,229 children have suffered bullying or cyberbullying in 2021, compared to almost 10,000 the previous year, according to the NGO Bullying Without Borders.

Clinical psychologist and video game designer Kelli Dunlap, who practices in the United States, clarifies that one of the many benefits for gamers is that they gain a sense of achievement and overcoming difficult situations. “Life doesn’t often give us those opportunities in the safety of a play space,” she says. She stresses that video games offer an outlet for dealing with loneliness and depression.

The WHO estimates that 3.8% of the world population suffers from depression, a percentage that increases to 5% when talking about adults. Dunlap explains that when a person deals with depression or anxiety, the smallest things become a world, so turning on the console and playing even an hour is already better than lying in bed doing nothing. As he happened to Bergés, when the anxiety was such that he did not allow him to read or write.

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Enrique Alonso is from Santander (Cantabria) and has a similar story. One of the hardest memories of him is learning by heart, when walking without company during recess, the measure in steps of the soccer field of his school. He had no friends and had a hard time socializing, but he does not recognize himself as a victim of bullying.

Now, at 42 years old, Alonso strives to come to terms with what he experienced because he knows that “nobody should have to go through something like this.” When he was a child, video games were not well seen and he was considered a “geek” among his classmates, he says. That changed the day he pulled out one of the first portable consoles during recess: a game boy. For the first time he was surrounded by curious looks pending that unusual artifact. “It was a magical sensation, of protagonism. I had all these people looking at me,” he recalls fondly. The loneliness he suffered ended almost without his realizing it. Cómo hacer una captura de pantalla larga en Xiaomi en MIUI

Dunlap understands the importance of that moment. In his group therapies, he uses the popular role-playing game in a guided way. Dungeons and Dragons, which can now be played online. What they work on the most in the sessions are “collaboration, communication and creativity”. The psychologist clarifies that during therapy she introduces the patients’ problems into the game. “The character she plays can meet someone she hasn’t seen in ten years and, within the game itself, work on resolving the conflict.”

Having a shared language with patients is important to advance in therapy, explains the psychologist. in the video game adventures with anxiety, that she uses, the disorder is represented by a wolf and the goal is to keep humans safe from the animal. “When the person comes into the session we can talk about how her wolf is that week and see how he has progressed in the game and in real life,” Dunlap clarifies.

By the late 1990s, Alonso had friends, status, and a guitar, so he no longer needed video games. He decided to give them all away and spent eight years hardly playing. Due to life circumstances and a job that plunged him into depression, he reconciled himself with what had made him so happy as a child. In 2014, he got a job in the digital media and specialized in video games Eurogamer. “Then few in Spain dedicated themselves exclusively to it, but I knew it was that or be extremely unhappy for the rest of my life.”

Bergés is also dedicated to it but partially. He combines his profession with collaborations in allgamers, another specialized medium on the subject. “What saved my life today is fun and shared moments.” Dunlap stresses the importance of playing for people’s well-being. In this sense, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, admitted in 2010 that he released the tension of the day with the mobile game angry Birds.

Psychologist Kelli Dunlap knows that video games are not the solution to mental health problems, but they are a tool to deal with them.

The Victoria University of Wellington study in New Zealand, The effects of casual video games on anxiety, depression, stress and moodiness, concludes that it is “imperative” to consider them as a therapeutic option, especially because “mental health disorders are increasingly frequent”. Dunlap argues that the important thing is that there is “a fluid conversation” between the therapist and the patient and, sometimes, it is easier through video games. That’s how it was for Alicia Bergés: “I survived the years of harassment and depression because I found a way to get out of my head and travel to places where I didn’t feel small.”

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