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The importance of staying connected: how video games can help tackle loneliness

Video games, enjoyed in moderation, are just one way we can bring people together

By Alex Norris  

A billboard on display in Piccadilly Circus during Loneliness Awareness Week to launch the #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign, London © CALM

This article was produced in association with CALM

With social distancing across the UK preventing physical contact between friends and family, the last few months have been challenging for much of the population and for some has exacerbated the feeling of loneliness.

A recent Office of National Statistics study has found that people aged between 16 and 24 are 50.8% more likely to have experienced feelings of “lockdown loneliness” following the outbreak. Research by suicide prevention charity the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) shows six in ten people in the UK experiencing anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic but almost a third (30%) said they are not likely to talk to someone if they are struggling with their feelings.

I’ve been inspired by initiatives across the UK helping to bring people back together. I’m a big gamer myself, so it was brilliant to see Ukie, the trade body for the UK’s games and interactive entertainment industry, launch the “Play & Talk” weekend in June during National Loneliness Awareness Week, where the UK’s games industry came together in a collective effort to connect loved ones separated by the lockdown.

When the opportunity arose to raise funds for CALM via the inaugural FIFA 20 parliamentary charity tournament run by Electronic Arts (EA) I jumped at the offer. The FIFA 20 Portcullis Cup also provided us an opportunity to re-connect with colleagues across Westminster, with two tournaments held on PS4 and Xbox One consoles. EA donated £50 for each goal scored to CALM (just as well as one of my games ended 10-5 in my favour) and whilst I may have been comprehensively knocked out by my Parliamentary Assistant far too early, together we helped raise an incredible £11,650.

Video games, enjoyed in moderation, are just one way we can bring people together.  Now, more than ever, it’s important that we keep in touch with our friends and family. Whether playing on our own or with colleagues there are lots of ways to feel the positive impacts that gaming can have on our mental health and wellbeing. Together we need to create safe spaces to allow friends and family to talk about their feelings and raise awareness about the support that is out there.

Talk to someone about how you’re feeling

  • For free, confidential, anonymous support call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 or via webchat at thecalmzone.net, 5pm-midnight, seven days a week
  • For the Samaritans call 116 123 for free or email at jo@samaritans.org
  • Silverline: for people aged 55 and over, call 0800 4 70 80 90 for free
  • The Mixprovides free, confidential help for under 25s online and via a helpline. Call 0808 808 4494, text THEMIX to 85258 or use their online chat service on the website

Notes: This research was conducted by Populus using an online sample of 2,096 UK adults 18+ between 7th and 10th May 2020. Data is weighted to be representative of the population of Great Britain. Targets for quotas and weights are taken from the National Readership Survey, a random probability F2F survey conducted annually with 34,000 adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For further information, see http://www.britishpollingcouncil.org/    

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