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Debugging D&I: Safe in Our World on what games companies can do to support their staff

This month plays host to Mental Health Awareness Week (May 9th-15th). With employee wellbeing increasingly becoming a priority for studios, Amiqus’ Business Manager Liz Prince speaks to Safe In Our World’s Charity Manager Sarah Sorrell about the organisation – and what games companies can do to support their staff…

Tell us about Safe In Our World and why it was established?

Safe In Our World was launched in October 2019 on World Mental Health Day, but the conversations about creating a mental health charity for the video games industry started back in 2017 amongst a group of industry folk. Our founders and trustees have all spent time in the industry.

There was a clear need for more to be done within the games industry space, to be able to ensure employees feel supported by their companies, and allow for these conversations to be destigmatised so that nobody is afraid to reach out for help if they need it.

What are the key mental health issues facing games industry employees?

One of the reasons why Safe In Our World was founded was to be able to support employees within the industry, as it is a notoriously challenging industry to work in due to the existence of crunch culture (or highly pressurised deadline-based projects) as well as a lack of mental health support in place across the industry worldwide. Games, for so many people, are a safe haven, and we need to ensure that both players and the people who make our games are supported, and mental health is taken seriously.

A shocking statistic from Ukie’s Census in 2020 revealed that 31% of UK games employees live with anxiety, depression or both, when the national average is 17%, and sadly it’s up to 38% in the most recent survey which clearly demonstrates a need for our work.

What is the Level Up campaign, and why should studios get involved?

The Level Up campaign is an industry-focused initiative challenging all companies within the video games industry to unite and commit to change. The worlds we create are a refuge for many, but we must consider our teams and the impact our industry has on their lives. We’re asking the entire video games industry to #LevelUpMentalHealth within their workplaces, ensuring that the environment is safe and supportive for their team’s mental health at all times.

Since launch in May 2020, we’ve had nearly 100 companies sign up to the Level Up campaign, with more enquiries every week. We are proud to be able to offer support, training and resources to all our partners to help them take their first steps in rolling out a mental health workplace programme. 

What three things can studios do to support the mental wellbeing of their employees?

The first thing to do is to commit to making the mental health of their employees a priority, and also to promote wellbeing as part of the company culture.

It is also really important for companies to understand their people and check-in with them on a regular basis.

We also recommend that they provide mental health resources like an EAP (Employee Assistance programme) and get their managers and team leaders trained as Mental Health First Aiders.

We can help with all of this and more with our Level Up initiative which is open to everyone within the industry.

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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