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Safe In Our World: Making mental health awareness a part of companies' DNA

When describing the mission of Safe In Our World, the charity group’s partnerships and training manager Sky Tunley-Stainton says that ultimately, it should be normal for someone to say without any stigma that they had a panic attack last night and the following morning isn’t a good day for a team meeting.

“Our mission is to foster positive mental health and well-being and deliver support,” Tunley-Stainton tells “Not only for players but also developers, publishers, retailers, and all the other people who make up the video games industry. Our goal is for the industry to come together and start a conversation that can change lives.”

When asked what the biggest hurdle is to the industry being more accepting of mental health services and advocacy, Tunley-Stainton says it still operates from a position of mental health support is nice to have but not essential.

They explain, “This can cause challenges such as not having a budget to put towards the effort or it’s not part of a company’s vision or value set.

“It’s something that our program tries to combat. Becoming a level-up partner is completely free, and our resources are completely free. We’re trying to avoid that barrier of entry for people being able to access those tools.”

The charity’s work emphasizes that mental health care and advocacy should become a basic necessity of a workplace and its staff.

Tunley-Stainton says, “One of the commitments that we ask studios [is that they] outwardly promote better conversations around mental health.

“This includes asking them to avoid using stigmatizing language on anything external facing, such as recruitment practices. This makes clearer that they are accepting and supportive of people who have mental health conditions through the hiring process.”

The charity’s efforts to normalize people’s unique mental health concerns and journeys includes constant conversations. To help destigmatize the topic, Safe in Our World shares different stories via its website and podcast.

“[Sharing stories] is one of the most powerful things that we can do because you’re hearing about so many different experiences. Some might be similar to yours and make you feel like you’re not alone. Other stories may open your eyes to experiences that you haven’t had and help you become more accepting of things culturally,” they explain.

The organization also recognizes that initiatives for mental health need to focus on the experiences of people from overlooked communities.

Tunley-Stainton says, “A lot of this comes down to people’s ability to empathize. That’s something that we as a charity have been thinking about a lot recently. At the beginning of the year, we did a rollout of some global training, which was mental health awareness sessions that focused specifically on the experiences of underrepresented people.

“Whether it’s people of color, LGBTQIA+ community, lower income backgrounds, people with disabilities, etc, what does mental health look like for the people who are in these communities? In what ways do we need to address how the industry is stacked against those people?”

To that effort, Safe In Our World has international resources broken down into subcategories for people of different backgrounds and mental conditions. It also released a self-help book earlier this year, Sidekick: The Video Games Mental Health Journal.

Tunley-Stainton explains, “We decided a little over a year ago now that we wanted to create something physical. We all agreed that there’s something very cathartic about physically writing things down. It’s an activity that not a lot of us take the time to practice in our day-to-day lives.

“We wanted something that people could always have with them or something kind of separate from being online so that people can take a moment to themselves,” they said. “I think that’s one of the things that people have enjoyed about Sidekick is that it gives you a firmer, more practical prompt where you can explore those things and still flex those same well-being muscles.”

The book also assists people with actively engaging with their mental health journey, similar to how they would with licensed professional help.

They say, “One of the things that I’m personally most proud of that we do has been our community manager training, which we did through late 2021 into the very beginning of this year.

“We’ve trained upward of 350 community managers in mental health first aid and being able to set boundaries for themselves. That’s a small portion of the industry’s community managers, but it’s still a start. It’s still people who’ve gone away with skills that they can then share with others.”

Still looking ahead, Tunley-Stainton has a positive outlook for growing mental health advocacy.

They explain, “We are looking at rolling out more training that will be available globally and providing more resources to get people to start thinking about this. We would also like to continue to grow our network of level-up mental health partners. We’ve got just shy of 150 now globally, which is wonderful, and they’re all doing some incredible stuff.”

“However, that’s still only a fraction of the industry, and we want more people within the industry to make this commitment.”

Tunley-Stainton continues, “On a longer time scale, we would like to start to see the cultural shift toward taking mental health more seriously, where it’s built in as part of business operations. We really would like to support the industry in embedding all of that into how it functions.”

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