Before the end of Mental Health Awareness month, we want to shine a light on Rise Above the Disorder, an AnyKey Affiliate and important mental health assistance community in gaming. We interviewed founder Jason Docton to learn more about RAD’s mission and how they work with gamers living with mental health issues to get the help they need.
AK: To give folks a brief overview, tell us about Rise Above the Disorder (RAD)’s mission.
Rise Above The Disorder is an action-oriented non-profit dedicated to solving the two greatest issues in mental health care: access and affordability. As someone who personally struggled with mental health issues for years, it felt conflicting seeing so many non-profits dedicated to awareness while hundreds of millions actively suffered. Despite mass awareness of issues like depression and anxiety, 78% of youth went untreated in 2017. Despite mass awareness of mental health services like psychotherapy and medication, 80% of people are unable to afford the cost of treatment. With RAD, we’ve reimagined the mental health care industry and created a platform that empowers all those who are courageous enough to begin recovery. Our website allows people to be just a few clicks away from speaking with mental health care professionals, while our grant programs provide life-saving funding for those whose only barrier to health and happiness is a financial one.
AK: People might already know your team’s work through Anxiety Gaming, which you founded several years ago as a result of working through your own mental health struggles. Over the past year your organization has grown into Rise Above the Disorder. How did all of this get started? What set you on this path, and what has motivated you to help so many other gamers work through their own mental health struggles?
The story of Rise Above The Disorder, previously Anxiety Gaming, is built in a pain that so many know and live with. What began as a panic attack due to overworking myself at school snowballed into complete isolation and agoraphobia. Every time I tried to go outside, I found myself having these acute panic attacks that felt as if I may die at any moment. My mental health continued to suffer as I developed OCD, with my mind believing that all of this anxiety was being caused by things around me that needed to be cleansed. As the years passed, the only way I could imagine escaping my worsening mental health was to take my own life; yet, I couldn’t justify doing so. I set out on a strange, unhealthy mission to find someone else who was thinking of taking their own life in hopes that I could save them; thus, justifying taking my life. Perhaps the only thing stable in my life at the time was gaming, where I was free to live in worlds far detached from my own. For months, I would send messages in-game that offered myself as someone to listen and help those who may be feeling suicidal. The first-ever “patient” of Anxiety Gaming would be a young gamer found in World of Warcraft.
I’d talk with this person for days on end, doing anything that I could to help them find the will to continue. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, but overtime improvement was seen. My days became filled with researching, studying, and learning how to help someone whose pain wasn’t physical, but emotional. For someone with unlimited time alone at home, this obsession with helping just one person became all consuming and unrestricted. I’d eventually find success with this individual, and though I found myself so proud and happy that they were going to move forward in life, it came with the bitter reality that I had served my singular purpose in this world. It wasn’t until the day I had planned to go through with taking my life that I’d once again log back on to World of Warcraft, where I found hundreds of requests from others who needed someone to talk to.
AK: What do you wish more people understood (or were more aware of) about mental health?
As we close out Mental Health Awareness Month, my hope is that people will take the time to listen to themselves. Our body and mind have a way of communicating to us that we often ignore, almost always at great detriment to ourselves. In a world filled with an artificial race for success and assimilation, trust when your body tells you to take breaks and when your mind tells you to be different. I’ve had the honor of working with so many individuals of all walks of life. The pro-gamers that so many aspire to be, the near million follower broadcasters on Twitch that so many watch, and those like myself who simply enjoy all that the gaming community has to offer. In all of those I’ve worked with, I’ve yet to find someone who didn’t find great success in their lives by learning to listen and communicate with themselves.
AK: What advice would you give to someone who might have a friend in crisis?
My advice for someone who has a friend in crisis is to focus on remaining calm and being genuine to your normal self. Many people see a friend in crisis and attempt to fulfill all of their needs. Trust that someone coming to you for help is looking for you to simply be yourself, with all of the expectation of what you have to say and what you can offer. It’s always safe to recommend professional help when you feel as if you’re not equipped or are uncertain how to help. It’s always safe to call for emergency services when a situation feels threatening or involves harm. It’s always safe to simply listen and offer little more than your time and concern.
AK: How and where can people support RAD?
If you’d like to support RADs mission, we find that the best way is to help us echo the importance of seeking professional help. You can do this by following us across social media
Should you wish to support those in our programs who are receiving life saving mental health care at no-cost to them, we welcome you to cover the cost of recover for them via: