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Subject: Boardgames and mental health. rss

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Declan Breen
United Kingdom
Northern Ireland
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Hi hoping for help from the boardgame community. I have the opportunity to work with a mental health charity to run gaming sessions for their clients. I would be gateful for any help or information on :

* the benefits of boardgames to individuals with mental health issues.
* examples and information on successful programs currently running or having run in the past.
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Ian Taylor
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What kind of mental health issues? There would be massive differences between trying to teach board games to people with Autism, Schizophrenia, Dyscalculia, Alzheimer's and OCD.
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Declan Breen
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Ian thanks for a reply, doing some research at the minute. Having a meeting next week to get an understanding of the group’s expectations and their client’s needs.
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Jennifer Derrick
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Yeah, need a bit more information. Are we dealing with depression, developmental issues, dementia, brain injuries (with perhaps associated dexterity problems), ADD, Autism, or other issues?

Generally, I think board games are good for mental health. They can be relaxing, social (as long as the mental health issue in question isn't a problem with groups/people), they can help with focus and patience, concentration and socialization. They're fun, so they can help with things like depression, at least temporarily. They work multiple areas of your brain, so they can be good for a lot of things.

However, if you have people who have problems with groups, losing, or who are easily frustrated, it might not work. At that point, you have to look into solitaire games, coops, or simpler games with smaller rule sets.

Without knowing what kind of issues you're dealing with, it's hard to say what angle you should approach this from.
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Keith Block
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I work in mental health. If you're working with clients who already do group therapy, it probably won't be too much of an issue, especially if it's a NAMI event. Most folks who attend want to continue some kind of connection of that sort after attending group therapy.

That said, it really depends on the diagnosis. I wouldn't want someone with schizoid personality disorder to get too interested in gaming. Folks with that diagnosis are already very fascinated with their inner world and abstract concepts. Boardgames might encourage them to isolate even further, regardless of who's playing with them. If you do play with someone with some schizoid features, or some form of autism, try a game that isn't multiplayer solitaire.

Be careful about games that encourage backstabbing. The main challenge for people with Axis II personality disorders is to navigate social interactions and relationships with good boundaries and assertive communication. Obviously, "Diplomacy" is the worst possible option. These folks are already very good at playing these games within seconds of meeting someone. If you do play a game with Axis II folks (and trust me, you will), go for ones that are as transparent in interactions as possible.

On the other hand, social games can be good for people with social anxiety and emotional intensity. Both conditions keep people from thinking too much beyond their initial emotional responses. I'd go for cooperative games that mesh well with the structured group environment.

I highly recommend abstracts. Games like YINSH are perfect for making the player think beyond their initial responses. It's the same kind of critical thinking I teach with my clients when it comes to responding to initial emotions and distorted perceptions.
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Robin B
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I currently work in group outpt. psych. treatment for young adults in a community mental health center. I work with a range of Axis I & II diagnoses and cognitive abilities. Personality disorders, psychotic disorders, PDD, you name it. In my experience, board games are a wonderful tool...

- A great way to engage a group.
- A great way to encourage social interactions among group members who may otherwise isolate.
- A fun way to promote skill development.
- A prosocial outlet for individuals with certain undesirable personality traits to use the skills they have without harming others.

I think diagnosis and cognitive limitations need to be taken into account, though I wouldn't spend too much time preoccuppied with every group member's diagnosis. I frequently observe my clients surpassing expectations I had of them while playing board games.

I think it's wonderful that you have the opportunity to run board game sessions... there needs to be more out there for those experiencing mental illness.
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Bob Kohut
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For all you FRAZIER fans---the greatest tool for advancing social skills
and group interaction...TWISTER!
 
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Andy Kerrison
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piemasteruk wrote:
There would be massive differences between trying to teach board games to people with Autism, Schizophrenia, Dyscalculia, Alzheimer's and OCD.


I'm pretty sure most boardgamers already have some form of OCD, so no need to worry about that one
 
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Gary Clarkson
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RodinRoar wrote:
I currently work in group outpt. psych. treatment for young adults in a community mental health center. I work with a range of Axis I & II diagnoses and cognitive abilities. Personality disorders, psychotic disorders, PDD, you name it. In my experience, board games are a wonderful tool...

- A great way to engage a group.
- A great way to encourage social interactions among group members who may otherwise isolate.
- A fun way to promote skill development.
- A prosocial outlet for individuals with certain undesirable personality traits to use the skills they have without harming others.

I think diagnosis and cognitive limitations need to be taken into account, though I wouldn't spend too much time preoccuppied with every group member's diagnosis. I frequently observe my clients surpassing expectations I had of them while playing board games.

I think it's wonderful that you have the opportunity to run board game sessions... there needs to be more out there for those experiencing mental illness.


I agree with all of the above comments. I personally am an Army provider currently deployed in Afghanistan with a cav unit. I use the board games I brought to help soldiers unwind after "intense" missions. We also all talk about their feelings and concerns. There is some data to support that this could help with decreasing PTSD. I wanted to do a study but didn't have time to get it approved.
Figure out your patient population....obviously personality disorders would be the most difficult to work with. Ie. antisocial or borderline.

Good luck!
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Liam
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Do a Google Scholar search.

You won't be able to access most of the articles but should be able to get access to the abstracts. This should at least help you cite the conclusions within the academic field, based on empirical data. If you've got University access or possibly a local library you may be able to access the journal articles themselves.

Socialisation, confidence building, developing social networks, possible respite for careers, additional skills development (attention span, teamwork, following rules, cooperating with others), creating a structure and something for people to look forward to, developing coping strategies and persecutive on losing, risk and winning within a safe environment, mental stimulation and fun are all worth mentioning.

Taking the time to acknowledge some of the problems and even dangerous within gaming and how you'll avoid them will further strengthen any pitch.
Eg. Games and themes that you'll be avoiding, perhaps DnD and other darker material - how to foster healthy competition and what to do if someone becomes upset or refuses to follow the rules, etc.
 
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Greg
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I'm with the folks who reckon it depends on a lot on the individual diagnosis. If you want to drop me a message about it I might be able to make an introduction to a relevant specialist (I finished a doctorate in psychology not long ago and still chat to some of the other researchers). No promises, a lot of the specialists I know have a very narrow focus, but it can't hurt to check.
 
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Declan Breen
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Thank you everyone for the support, leads and advice, some of which I will follow up with Geek Mails. I will let you know how I get on.
 
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George Mullins
United States
Clinton
Tennessee
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I have been undergoing treatment for anxiety and scizophrenia since 1994, and I got back into board games in the late nineties, as I had tried some gaming in the late eighties.

This past December I was speaking with a therapist, and he told me that he thinks that I may have a form of autism, which enables me to have a vast memory, and I even asked him if it were possible that I may be a savant. He said, "It's possible".

Since then, I have been doing research on the type of autistic dosorder he thinks I may have - Asperger Syndrome - and I find that most who have this are of a different intellectual tick. This explains why I tend to go for board gaming, especially sports simulations.

I though I would share this with all of you, and I hope to hear from some of you on this matter in the future.
 
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