This September marked the four-year anniversary of the founding of Take This. An anniversary we allowed to pass with little fanfare, because although our founding marked the beginning of a journey that has taken us from a gathering of concerned citizens to a full-fledged non-profit charity with operations all over the world, the date also marks the end of the life of a human being.
Take This was founded in direct response to the death of Matt Hughes, a freelance journalist who touched many lives in his career. Matthew struggled with depression, but no one among the hundreds of writers and editors he worked with online knew it. Until one day, with tragic suddenness, he was gone. As the various members of Matthew’s acquaintance struggled to come to terms with the pain of his loss, many of us (including Susan Arendt, Dr. Mark Kline, and myself) resolved to do something to possibly help others who, like Matthew, were suffering in silence.
The result was Take This, founded specifically to help people dealing with mental health issues understand that they are not alone, that there is help for them, and that they would be missed if they were gone.
“It’s Dangerous to Go Alone” isn’t just a pithy catch-phrase borrowed from a video game; it’s a recognition that together we can change lives, but alone, we struggle.
Since its founding in 2012, Take This has brought together people as disparate as video game journalists and doctors of psychology to forge an alliance between the video game industry and the mental field. We’ve built a bridge between our community and theirs to not only forge a better understand between us, but to actively improve care for the thousands of people we work with in the community, and improve the understanding of that community within the ranks of the hundreds of licensed mental caregivers who are Take This volunteers.
To put it bluntly: Take This has introduced the video game community to mental health care on a scale and with a precision never before seen, and has introduced mental caregivers to the video game community in a deeply profound way, opening its collective eyes to a group of people who are often ostracized and neglected. We see ourselves as ambassadors, advocates, educators, and bridge-builders. And in the four years since our founding, we’ve moved mountains.
In 2016 alone, Take This harnessed the expertise of our hundreds of clinical psychology advisors to publish almost two dozen articles of expert advice for mental health self-care and how to find and get help for common mental health disorders, as well as nearly 500 blog posts at takethis.org. And in-person, this same program of advocacy and education has brought our teachings to over a dozen different organizations and events.
Our “AFK” program of conference assistance and training worked with our event partners to bring AFK quiet rooms to seven different events around the world, and direct training of convention staff on how to recognize and assist those in need to many more. This year was the most active year for our AFK Program by far, and it continues to grow. This year, in addition to the PAX events where we started, we also added E3 in Los Angeles, and MomoCon in Atlanta. More are to come.
This year, we also partnered with Geek & Sundry and Habitica to bring our educational efforts to new audiences and apply research-backed mental health strategies to a world class life management app, respectively.
Take This also added a brand-new program in 2016: “Underground”, designed specifically to provide mental health training and conflict or crisis resolution resources directly to video game studios in need. Underground was devised in partnership with management consultants working in the video game industry already, along with key members of major publishers, veteran developers, and a human resources expert from NASA. Our goal with Underground is to help make game making less debilitating to those dealing with mental health issues, and to give people managers in the game space more tools for helping teams deal with all-too common issues like work stress, anxiety and depression.
All of these efforts have been borne of our deep-abiding belief in the power of community to save and change lives, and our faith in the video game community. And all of these accomplishments would not have been possible (or meant as much) without the many additions to the Take This family this year, including Website Editor Nissa (rhymes with Lisa) Campbell, Community Manager Mike Robles, Operations Director Suzanne Jackiw, Clinical Director Dr. Raffael Boccamazzo, and Executive Director Shannon Gerritzen. As one of the people once doing all of what is now their work myself (along with Jacqui and John), I can safely say their joining us has changed my life in ways I can hardly count, and I am thankful for their and everyone’s contributions every day.
I want to close this end-of-year message with a communication we received from someone more impacted by the events of our founding than anyone else, and for whom our efforts have had a special meaning.
I’m Matt Hughes’s mom.
It has been, and still is, a long road, trying to deal with my son’s passing/suicide on October 30, 2012.
It was by far the worst day of my life….
I wanted to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for not letting Matt die in vain!
To come up with this project is just phenomenal! I truly hope this project helps those who suffer so they don’t feel so alone and that nobody cares.
– Kimberly A. Hughes
All of us at Take This look forward to 2017, the challenges ahead, and all of the great things we will do together.
It’s dangerous to go alone.