Happy New Years!
It's been a while since I've posted, but a lot of that has been because I've been busy with my community mental health job. However, this has given me a lot of time to look at the complex needs of kids in the community mental healthcare system, and think about how using TTRPG groups could help them meet some of their needs.
The agency I work for is often the last stop before prison or long term hospitalization, and the clients are often aggressive, suicidal, or dealing with numerous extremely complex mental health disorders, paired with all kinds of socioeconomic challenges, racism, and other complex needs they may be struggling with. Very often a lot of my job is focused towards very superficial behaviors, such as decreasing incidents of violent outbursts (or at least trying to deescalate them when they occur), but I also spend a lot of time observing how kids interact with the world, and the number one thing I see is that a lot of these kids do not have friends.
They live in very sheltered lives, in social deserts of sprawling suburbs or dangerous neighborhoods where the nearest parks are either out of walking distance or tent camps with open drug use, and instead spend nearly all of their time on Youtube or videogames. They recieve social interaction by watching their favorite Youtubers, playing games with people online, or interacting with their siblings, which may have a history of turning into an escalation. Their social circle amounts to the people who interact with them at school and their immediate family.
And this isn't just my clients. I see it happening with kids everywhere. There's a death of the community space, and so much of it is being projected towards constructed, one way social experiences. I had a conversation with a social media celebrity the other night about this- she told me that kids were sending pictures of them cutting or discussing suicidal intent, and asking for help, using the justification that 'I like all your posts, so we're practically friends now!'
Pairing the decline of the community space with one directional social interaction and severe mental health needs, and you have a significant challenge that I believe gaming social skills groups can meet. And I'm going to be pitching this idea for my work in community mental health.
Building community is a core need for people, and right now it's harder than ever. We have on demand socialization on screens, but it's not healthy or normative. Getting kids sitting around a table for a few hours, playing a game and telling a story together, that's valuable. It's a structured activity with clear rules and boundaries for engagement, so it acts as a scaffolded framework towards community building, while also offering a chance to develop social skills and meet other individuals who are similar to you. And when facilitated by someone who is both an engaging storyteller and adept social skills coach, you've got a path towards building real community, which is an absolute need for humans to thrive.
So that's pretty much my hope for what I'll be doing in 2020, building healthy community through TTRPG social skills groups. Hit me up at @rollforkindness on twitter with your thoughts or 2020 goals, I'd love to hear them!