OAKLAND, Calif. — A first-of-its-kind mental health initiative developed by Kaiser Permanente and esports organization Cloud9 has been found to be an effective way of supporting the mental health of young adult esports players and fans, according to a new study published in NEJM Catalyst.
Presence of Mind launched in May 2020 with the goal of reaching teens and young adults with positive mental health messages in places where they spend a lot of their time: online gaming and esports platforms. The initiative includes 2 seasons of live Twitch Stream series featuring prominent players; mental health experts and influencers; creator-led YouTube video content from some of esports’ favorite players sharing insights, positivity, and personal mental health messages; and a series of free, online interactive training sessions to help address critical mental health issues. As of May 2022, the training sessions have been accessed by more than 51,000 teens and young adult gamers who have learned how to better manage their mental health and support their friends when they need it most.
As part of the initiative, Kaiser Permanente and Cloud9 engaged with PGP (The Public Good Projects), a public health nonprofit responsible for some of the nation’s most successful health campaigns. PGP conducted an independent longitudinal study that tracked the program’s impact on reducing mental health stigma and measured behavior change within the gaming community. PGP surveyed gamers and esports fans between the ages of 18 and 25 in fall 2020 before they became engaged with Presence of Mind and again in summer 2021.
The study authors found that respondents who engaged with Presence of Mind reported greater understanding of mental health issues than those who had not engaged with the initiative. The study also found that respondents who engaged with Presence of Mind were:
- More than twice as likely to report they knew what advice to give a friend with a mental health condition
- Nearly twice as likely to agree that there has been an improvement in the way the esports community addresses mental health
- Nearly twice as likely to show better attitudes toward mental health treatment, including counseling, medication, and recovery
“Our continued goal with Presence of Mind is to help reduce the stigma of mental health conditions within the communities we serve, share community-developed and clinician-informed mental health and addiction care training resources, and to build a safe and open space for conversations and empathy,” said Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness. “We are pleased but not surprised with the results of this study showing that engaging with youth and young adults in places where they spend a large portion of their time can help increase their understanding of mental health issues and improve their attitudes toward treatment including counseling and recovery.”
“Our study finds that embedding a health care-led mental health initiative within already existing, large-scale professional esports networks can be an effective way of supporting the mental health of young esports players and fans,” said Joe Smyser, PhD, chief executive officer, PGP. “We believe these findings fill a gap in the evidence base and demonstrate that this type of initiative is a novel way to reach a favorably young male audience, which traditionally is less likely to engage in mental health care.”
According to the study authors, Presence of Mind is an initiative that can be used as a model for similar partnerships to reach youth audiences such as in sports or music industries, or for expansion to other health topics relevant to young adults. The study authors also state that these findings could help inform future efforts to address mental health in the esports community such as examining ways to use targeted messaging to reach parents as a priority group.
“We are glad to see real-world evidence that Presence of Mind is helping to drive more open conversations about mental health at Cloud9 and within the gaming community,” said Jack Etienne, founder and chief executive officer, Cloud9. “The success of this initiative can show others in our industry and beyond that it is possible to engage youth and young adults with positive mental health conversations and help promote a more inclusive environment for all.”
The Presence of Mind initiative with Cloud9 is Kaiser Permanente’s latest effort focused on addressing the mental health and wellness needs of its members, communities, and the public. Since 2016, Kaiser Permanente’s Find Your Words campaign has helped to tackle the stigma that prevents many people from talking about mental health and wellness. Find Your Words offers a variety of resources including information on how to build resilience and reduce stress, and screening tools to inform further conversations about diagnosis and treatment, and offers ways to share inspiring stories, videos, and artwork from the site with others.
A public health nonprofit, PGP designs the most advanced health communication programs in the world. PGP’s programs are conducted in partnership with public and private sector organizations and rigorously evaluated through scientific peer-review. Regardless of the subject or community being served, experts across various disciplines combine best practices with innovative methods to improve health outcomes. To learn more about PGP, visit publicgoodprojects.org.
Founded in 2013, Cloud9 has grown to become one of the most recognizable esports organizations in the world. With industry-wide championships, unmatched viewership hours, and extensive benefits packages for players and staff, Cloud9 prides itself on being the best in all categories. At this time, Cloud9 fields professional teams in Apex Legends, Chess, Fortnite, Halo, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Overwatch, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Teamfight Tactics, VALORANT, Wild Rift, and World of Warcraft. To find more information about Cloud9, visit www.cloud9.gg.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.6 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.