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Esports gamers and athletes share similar mental health struggles

News round-up / by Conor D'Andrade

According to data from a new study, top-level video gamers experience similar levels of mental health problems to traditional pro athletes, including elevated levels of anxiety, burnout and stress.

Researchers from the University of Winchester and the University of Chichester studied 313 university students who participate in esports competitions for Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant and Counter Strike: Global Offensive – all fast-paced, team-based, highly-skilled first-person shooters with fiercely competitive player bases.

The players were asked to complete surveys that attempted to measure what was causing stress when competing in esports, such as fears around performance, interactions between teammates, and other signs of declining mental health.

The results found that participants expressed mental health problems similar to those found in studies of traditional athletes. These problems were mostly stress-related, such as insomnia, anxiety and burnout.

One of the researchers from the University of Winchester, Dr Matt Smith, was keen to highlight the significance of this research, saying:

“Our study has important implications for player health in esports. In particular, it highlights that interventions could target specific aspects of stress, sleep, burnout and social phobia anxiety, to improve the mental health of those who compete in esports.

“There is a lack of research examining mental health in esports athletes," said Smith. "By identifying the risk factors which underpin mental ill health for this group of athletes, we hope healthcare practitioners can deliver evidence-based healthcare provision for esports athletes.”

Leave refusal raises question of police attitude toward mental health

A police officer from the North West of England has drawn attention to the lack of mental health support frontline police officers receive.

Prompted by the rejection of a two-day mental health leave request to recuperate from several traumatic incidents whilst on duty, they shared their experiences on Twitter, to an audience of 13,000 followers:

The tweet has since received much support from the public, former officers and mental health advocates.

A campaigner for emergency service worker's mental health, @CopWellbeing, echoed the officer's call for time away from the frontline, saying “don't force yourself in if you need that break. Take the sickness leave and on your return to work meeting make it absolutely clear why you were off."

The Chair of the Greater Manchester Police Federation, Lee Broadbent, shared the tweet as a sign of support and provided some advice for the officer in distress, he said:

"Venting is a red flag for me. It’s how people respond when they feel no one is listening. Don’t know where you’re based, but reach out and speak to a local rep. If you don’t feel comfortable/confident to stay local, DM me. I’ve walked your path. I have the scars. I’ll do my best to help."

Special Forces on a mission to lower suicide rates among their ranks

The Special Forces are attempting to tackle mental illness and the high rates of suicide among their veterans.

The Special Boat Service’s mission was outlined after the inquest into the death of Corporal Alex Tostevin, who experienced PTSD after serving in Afghanistan in 2010, and took his own life in March 2018.

Tostevin is the third elite commando to have done so in the last four years. In 2022 alone, at least eight armed forces personnel are believed to have ended their own lives.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that a Defence Suicide Register may be put into place as part of a wider plan to tackle suicide among veterans. He also suggested that attempts are being made to remove the stigma toward mental health.

Tostevin’s mother Alison felt deeply let down by the system, saying that her son was “asking for help for a long time and as a family we feel he was failed.” She hopes that “more members of the forces will talk about mental health – Alex wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer as he did.”

A veteran’s mental health campaigner and former Army Warrant Officer, Jim Wilde, felt that this admission was a long time coming, stating: “Finally, the defence secretary has admitted more work needs to be done. This is the case right across the military.”


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