According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 6 people experienced a common mental health problem in early 2021. Within esports in particular, mental health appears to be an issue for many individuals, which is why it’s important to promote positive mental wellbeing in the industry.
We recently spoke to streamer Daniel ‘BezzaBing’ Bingley, a disabled veteran from the British Army, about how he uses gaming to promote positive wellbeing.
Daniel served in the Army for 16 years until he got medically discharged, then finding that sport was a great way for him to keep on going in life. He ended up taking part in the Warrior Games in 2017, and then the Invictus Games a year later. He later was able to play with the Team GB sitting volleyball team.
As a veteran, Daniel works with the Royal British Legion, Blesma, and Help for Heroes, by helping them get into gaming and esports. Now he streams various titles, as well as working within projects such as the Charities Cup, Hero Up, the Legion Games, the Wounded Warrior Project and Blesma Game On.
Ability not Disability:
Many gamers struggle with their mental health, Daniel has found a way to see the positivity in both gaming and daily life.
He said: “I always use the principle that I do not like the word ‘disability’. I think it means you can’t do something, I prefer the word ‘ability’. From gaming and esports to sports, it’s the same ethos – if you’ve got the ability to do something, then you can achieve and do it.”
“The recovery aspect of playing a video game is demilitarising what has happened to veterans, and you are on the same playing field. It doesn’t matter if someone has got their full body and they’ve got mental health problems, or has got one arm, you can show you’ve got an ability to play,” Daniel added.
“People in the military join because they want to serve the Queen of the country, but once they’re injured some people feel lost, depressed and some of them feel like they have nobody else. Then this shining light comes up and says ‘oh do you play computer games? Come and join a community and then feel like you belong, feel like part of something, and feel embraced.’ It doesn’t matter about your disability but your mental health is so much better when you’re interacting, talking, and being open.”
“You can be at the same level on a computer game, because the great thing about computers is that they do not discriminate.”
Levelling the playing field is one of the most important things in the esports industry, as everyone should be able to take part regardless. Just the idea of esports being inclusive inspires anyone to get involved and see the benefits gaming has on individuals like Daniel.
“You can play computer games just to relax and that, but people do like competition. It’s all about what gaming can give you, and it can give you either spectrum – if you just want to chill out, or the other side of it where you can play as part of a community and fight for each other. There’s so many different spectrums to games and the great thing about it is that you will meet people that you never thought you would interact with, connect with, play with.”
Finding that balance between being competitive and immersing yourself in gaming is key to maintaining a positive mental wellbeing. The biggest attribute to making this balance is by communicating with others.
Finding your PMA:
Daniel says: “Having a ‘positive mental attitude’ (PMA) is a life balance. I’m a big advocate of community fields, so when I do team sports I departmentalise and I extract from the real world, I am zoned in and being part of a community.”
“The ethos is the same in esports. When you’re playing a game, there’s a number of factors that will go through your mind when you’re doing it. You want to participate, you want to achieve, you want to help each other, you don’t want to let each other down – these are fundamentals that we’re all engraved with,” he adds.
“The worries around reality build up and they’re pressure points, but when you play a game you can release quite a lot of those pressure points because you can open up to your friends, tell them what’s going on in the world and you’ve released a lot of those pressure points,” he adds.
Effective time management:
In order to make sure you’re looking after yourself, you need to be able to know your boundaries, and distance yourself from gaming when it is starting to affect you. This is really important in maintaining good mental health, as you don’t want to let the stress of losing matches take over.
Daniel says: “You need to manage your time on the computer, because you need to get your fitness in there, eating healthy, drinking healthy and looking after yourself – these are all factors to being a great athlete, as you are an athlete in esports. You have to look after your body, which includes your mental health.”
“It’s also embracing that out there are people who have actually gone through it and say ‘oh I’ve had bad days, I’ve had good days, I have mental health problems.”
“But does that stop me from wanting to live on and achieve? No it doesn’t and that comes down to the old ethos of picking up a computer game, playing a game and then the world has a whole different meaning behind it.”
With mental health, change generally doesn’t come about unless someone tries to initiate that change. Although there are mental health charities in esports and gaming, there is still more that can be done to make positive change.
“That’s what I think the gaming industry misses, is that I have never seen anyone speak about mental health openly. I think companies do want this to happen, it’s just 1. Finding the right person who can go in and speak and 2. Is actually to listen and learn and re-engage back with the community,” Daniel states.
“At the end of the day, these companies have created a game that has made a community, what is their engagement back with that community? Is it based on profits, or is it actually based on affecting people’s lives?”
“I say to myself ‘life isn’t that bad, life isn’t that difficult, you’ve just made it bigger than your own head’ and just to release it all playing a video game helps.”
You can check out all of the incredible work Daniel is doing over on his Twitter!https://twitter.com/BezzaBing/status/1404498301362348033?s=20