In a recent blog post, Twitch has asked its streamers to help raise awareness for Mental Health Month.
The post gently suggests that streamers could spend a few minutes talking about their own experiences with mental health, and lists a number of charities and organizations for which streamers could consider starting or joining fundraisers. Though the post is rather short, it gathered a lot of attention on Twitter and was met with many replies containing support and positive messages.
This isn’t the first time Twitch has released official bulletins about mental health, either. Their community guidelines has an entire page dedicated to the topic, with links to resources for mental health issues of all types. Twitch also plays to its audience by offering links to a few mentally therapeutic games that “are either built on evidence-based therapeutic principles or are the subject of promising research.”
It may be daunting for streamers to discuss their mental health experiences on a website infamous for its toxic chat users. However, doing so may lead some people to finding the help they need, and streamers can also approach the issue without having to open up more than they’re comfortable with. Popular Fortnite streamer Ninja offers his stream as an outlet to viewers struggling with mental health, but clarifies that self care will help the most:
“The joy that I bring to you guys, or the joy, or anything at all, I am an outlet, I am something that can help you guys get through . . . Use me, but you have to understand that I cannot fix you, I can’t. You have to fix yourselves . . . but the endgame needs to be that you work on yourselves otherwise you won’t ultimately be happy.”
While “raising awareness” for mental health might seem somewhat redundant to some, I believe that Twitch offers a rare dynamic between streamer and viewer that makes efforts by streamers much more powerful than any corporate message can. Corporate participation in campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Month can often feel canned or disingenuous, but Twitch’s ability to connect streamers and viewers allows its campaign to have a more personal touch.
Viewers often build relationships with particular streamers, which can feel quite personal to some. Tuning in to hang out and play video games with the same person every day can feel like a real friendship, despite being just one of thousands of viewers. In fact, many streamers try to foster this sort of community around their channel, reading and responding to their chat nearly as much as they play games. Some viewers are friends with their favorite streamers, becoming regulars who are greeted individually by the streamer themselves.
As viewers bond with their favorite streamers, a message of support for mental health can feel as sincere as one coming from a family member or friend. For many with mental illness, Twitch streamers offer a type of friendship that they might struggle to create elsewhere. Even just a short discussion about mental health on-stream could reach thousands of people at once and have the same weight to them as a discussion with a close friend could. Thanks to Twitch and the streamers who participate in Mental Health Awareness Month, many people could soon be getting the mental health support they need.