Mental Health | Volunteers of America

Mental health Person

Content creators in general, and streamers in particular, have long demonstrated a strong willingness to learn about, and foster discussion of, mental health issues. Successful creators build healthy, accepting communities, and a big part of that, especially on the internet, where those suffering from social anxiety or depression can come together in a comfortable setting, is creating an open, welcoming space for those going through hard times. They’ve proven to be very good at this, and the ecosystem around them has evolved similarly alongside. Charities like Take This and Anxiety Gaming draw support from myriad creators and fans, while live events like PAX and TwitchCon offer quiet rooms, away from the chaos, for their attendees to decompress and gather themselves. It’s clear: this is something that gamers and creators care about.

But what about their own mental health? Content creators have done incredible good, supporting their fans, raising money for charity, and just allowing a space for conversations, for connection between people in need, and yet, as we have conversations with more users and streamers, go to more conventions and meetups, it’s becoming clear that the same attention, the same mindful care isn’t being given to their own struggles, their own mental health.

We all do, sometimes, Yellow Oscar. We all do…

Making stuff on the internet can get lonely. Usually, you work from home, in an office or a bedroom. There aren’t really coworkers. You don’t have anyone to talk about the last episode of Game of Thrones or with whom to get a quick lunch and complain about the boss. You don’t have assignments handed down, schedules to give your work-life structure. There’s nobody at the end of the day to tell you what you’ve been doing right, or to push you in a better direction. All of this makes creators susceptible to periods of sadness, depression, or anxiety, either over the content of their work, the course of their career, or even something totally unrelated.

So, creators have to be proactive.

It’s not always easy to do, but, when it comes to staying physically healthy, it’s no mystery what’s required. If you want to be fit, to have a healthy life, you have to take the appropriate steps. You have to get exercise. You have to eat right. You have to get check-ups and engage in preventative medicine. Taking care of your mind, your emotional well-being, is much the same, once you take a mindful look at what you need and what you’re missing.

First of all, make sure your content isn’t the only place you get to be social. A lot of creators think that, because they stream to tens or hundreds or thousands of people every day, interacting through chat, they’re already getting all the socialization they need to stay healthy, but it just doesn’t work like that. Human beings are social creatures, and we need face-to-face interaction to feel whole. Understandably, this can cause even more anxiety for those among us, myself included, who have trouble finding opportunities to meet new people, or who aren’t as comfortable out in public. That’s what makes things like creator meetup groups, conventions, and other creator-centric gatherings so valuable. There are events across the entire country, and the world, attended by creators just like you, and they’re designed in such a way as to make meeting people, getting to know them without pressure, easier. We’ve talked about it before: Other creators are your coworkers. They’re the ones who understand what you’re going through, who can give you advice and support backed up by first-hand experience. You may not work in an office, but you can still develop that network of people around you, to help you through, and you get to be there for them too.

This extends online, too. Collaboration is an important part of growing your platform. When you play with another streamer or creator, integrating them into your work, you’re letting your fan-bases cross pollinate, each of you getting new followers from the other’s viewers, while also just making stronger, more entertaining content. But, beyond this, you’re also letting another person into your work-space, into your “office, ” making the experience more social, less lonely. Viewers are great, don’t get me wrong, but the amount you get to interact with them is limited by the nature of the relationship, by the limitations of the chat. When you game with another creator, these days, it’s so much more, with live-chat and face-cams. You get to really share the experience with each other, in its ups and downs, its success and failure. You’d be amazed the difference having a teammate can make.

Still, the most important part? Openness. The part about dealing with depression or anxiety that hurts the most is not being able to talk about it, having to keep the feelings in, where they just stew inside of you. Issues you don’t get to talk about get heavy, turning into burdens you feel all the time, weighing you down during everything you do. That’s what’s so damaging about the isolation: you can’t let out that negative energy. So, be honest. With your audience, with your collaborators. When you’re having trouble, talk about it. Let your audience in on what’s happening. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by the support of those around you. Like I said, this space is accepting and supportive; your fans want to be there for you, to talk things through with you. Not only that, but you get to be there for them, any member of your audience who might be going through something similar. Things can get real lovey-dovey real quick; you just have to give them the opportunity. Plus, honesty is a huge part of any artistic endeavor, and the more open you are, the stronger your content will be. It’s secondary, of course, to the benefit to your mental health, but, hey… everybody likes to make better stuff.