May 4, 2021

Teaching youth the fundamentals of mental health

A new series of interactive videos featuring esports influencers encourages young people to prioritize their emotional wellness.

Members of the Cloud9 esports organization (pictured quarantining together in the Cloud9 house) are encouraging their gaming community to learn about mental health.

Like many people, Jennifer Salib, PsyD, a Kaiser Permanente psychologist and mother of 2, grew up thinking that playing video games wasn’t a great use of time. “We thought there was no way it could be good for you,” Dr. Salib said.

However, after seeing her son’s reaction to a recent victory, her perspective began to change.

“We didn’t fully understand how important our son’s participation in the online gaming community was to him until he came home one day and told us that he’d come in first out of a hundred competitors.”

Gaming and esports — esports, short for “electronic sports,” is the term for organized, competitive gaming — have become a social lifeline for many young people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike video games of the past, where a person had to be in the room with you to interact, today’s games create communities across the world, providing many people with genuine friendships and a sense of belonging.

Gaming and esports are now a huge part of global culture. In fact, gaming videos have a bigger audience than the combined audiences of HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu.

Interactive videos to share with the young people in your life

As part of the Presence of Mind initiative, Kaiser Permanente is launching a series of short, interactive training videos that provide tools to foster open, nonjudgmental, and honest conversations about mental health.

Designed for 14- to 25-year-olds in the esports and gaming community, the videos help people understand what mental health is, why they should prioritize it, and how to use what they learn to help others. Viewers also learn ways to take care of their emotional well-being, and how to get help when it’s needed.

The first video in the series is available now on FindYourWords.org. A second video will be available in June, and a third will follow in September.

Young people may also be interested in the Presence of Mind stream series on Cloud9’s Twitch channel. The show features gamers, streamers, and esports athletes talking about managing stress and building resilience, and how to focus on self-care.

“It’s great for kids to see people they look up to talking about their feelings and their challenges and to hear them say, ‘It’s OK not to feel OK, but it’s important to notice it and do something about it,’” said Dr. Lateefah Watford, MD, who, like Dr. Salib, sits on the clinician advisory committee that helped guide the development of the videos. “That helps make mental health part of normal life, rather than something that’s mysterious or scary.”

Share the Presence of Mind: Mental Health Matters Training with the young people in your life today.