As a mental health professional, I feel as though I need more ways of understanding how my clients view the world. To feel a piece of what it’s like to be them.
Lately I have been finding many comics that let readers take a look at what it is like to have a mental illness. These are great because visual representation makes things a bit more real and accessible than just written word.
My most recent discovery (one that I find especially exciting), is actually a computer game called Depression Quest. The game is set up much like a choose your own adventure book. It is an interactive story designed to help those who know someone with depression to better understand their loved one’s experience.
It was also designed for those suffering depression, in order to normalize their feelings and let them know that they aren’t alone in their struggles. That there are others who go through the same or similar battle to get up in the morning or to spend time with their significant other.
Depression Quest simulates the experience of having depression so well that the creators have placed a warning on main page which reads “This game is not meant to be a fun or lighthearted experience. If you are currently suffering from the illness and are easily triggered, please be aware that this game uses stark depictions of people in very dark places.”
As someone who has lived in some of those very dark places, I can tell you that their warning should be taken seriously. I feel as though I am in a good place currently in my life, but have had similar struggles in my past to many of the situations depicted in the game. Afterward I definitely needed some self-care (by way of gratitudes and video games).
One of the important things to take away from this game is that there are many levels of depression, and many ways of being depressed. There are three bars at the bottom of the game that constantly give you your status on: your depression level, how therapy is going, and if you are taking medication. You can play multiple times and have many different outcomes.
And the biggest revelation which comes from the game?
That even when things feel good, therapy is helping, and the medication is working, depression can still hit like a sledgehammer from time to time.
Even when things are okay, they aren’t. Which could both be scary and relieving for someone struggling with depression. On the one hand, it could feel like things will never be good. On the other hand…it could help to know that the bad days are normal even in treatment.
Being able to understand our clients’ frame of reference is part of what makes empathy work. We may not have to completely understand everything someone has gone through, but having a glimpse into the experience is definitely eye opening. It can make things more real and help us understand why people do what they do, or react the way they do.
I urge anyone working in the mental health field, or anyone who knows someone with depression, to play this game. It may not be the most fun game ever…but it will definitely be eye opening.
Oh! And play the game with the sound on. The creators did an amazing job with the soundtrack. It really adds to the vibe of the game.