Esports team Cloud9 teams with Kaiser Permanente to improve mental health

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Esports organization Cloud9 has teamed up with managed healthcare company Kaiser Permanente to improve mental health in the U.S. gaming community.

It’s another sign of the mainstreaming of esports, video games, and mental wellness efforts.

Los Angeles-based Cloud9, which runs a number of esports teams for games such as League of Legends and Fortnite, has partnered with Kaiser Permanente on Presence of Mind, a campaign to increase mental health awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage teens and young adults to prioritize their well-being.

Presence of Mind is one of Kaiser Permanente’s many efforts to help build a stronger mental and emotional foundation across the nation, and it targets the gaming community, where mental health has been a growing issue.

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This initiative with Cloud9 pairs Kaiser Permanente mental health experts and clinicians together with athletes, coaches, and staff to engage youth and young adults in mental health conversations in the places where they are spending their time.

Key components of the initiative will include mental health training for Cloud9 players and staff, a new content series on the gaming platform Twitch, and a community moderator training and engagement program. The first phase will kick off in May 2020 with Cloud9’s League of Legends team, currently ranked number one in North America and playing an esport that draws the largest viewing audience in the world.

Don Mordecai, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness, said in a statement that Presence of Mind will contribute to a public health movement within esports by engaging teens, young adults, and other gamers in mental health conversations. He said the need is even more critical in this period of stress and physical isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes amid growing concern about youth mental health. On average, one in six U.S. youths experiences a mental health disorder each year, with 50% of all lifetime mental illness beginning by age 14, and 75% by age 24. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic is leading more people to speak openly about mental health.

According to research from The Public Good Projects, there has been a significant increase — nearly 49% — in mental health conversations over social media since January 2020.

Cloud9 has 13 teams in 11 games, including Clash Royale.Cloud9 has 13 teams in 11 games, including Clash Royale.

Above: Cloud9 operates a bunch of esports teams.

Image Credit: Cloud9

Concurrently, gaming and esports continue to grow among youth and young adults as a way to stay socially connected while physically isolated, especially during the pandemic. Since stay-at-home restrictions were imposed, the World Health Organization now recognizes the role that the gaming industry can play to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by promoting health guidelines such as physical distancing.

Cloud9 CEO Jack Etienne said in a statement that the partnership will spotlight mental health and wellness in the esports community and set an example for everyone in the industry. He said that gaming and esports is a refuge for so many during this pandemic, and he said everyone wants fans and players to be at their healthiest, both mentally and physically.

Clinician-led mental health and wellness training Kaiser Permanente mental health and wellness experts will conduct a series of training sessions with Cloud9’s professional players and staff to help create positive advocates and supporters of mental health and wellness.

Through this training, Kaiser Permanente will provide the tools to drive open, nonjudgmental, and honest conversations about mental health within the gaming community.

The Presence of Mind initiative will be featured prominently in a new content series Cloud9 is launching for Twitch. The series will showcase the real life behind gaming, esports, and elite athletes, with a focus on total health. Esports influencers and Kaiser Permanente experts will connect on different episodes to talk about gaming and mental health, including topics such as coping during the COVID-19 pandemic and
combating burnout.

An advisory council made up of Kaiser Permanente clinicians will provide training to Cloud9 and offer guidance and expertise on the development of mental health activations throughout the initiative. In addition, Kaiser Permanente, Cloud9, and PGP will conduct ongoing research to track the initiative’s impact on reducing mental health stigma and measure behavior change within the gaming community. Kaiser Permanente serves more than 12.2 million patients across the U.S.