Mental Health: Depression and boardgames, an unlikely friendship



Mental illness. Something that so many people deal with but something that is so scary to talk about. Statistics say that one in four, that’s right, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. That’s huge.

I try to speak up about the issues that I face but often feel like people will think less of me if I am open and honest about my mental health. However this must change, it has to. I want to create a space where anybody can come and talk about how they are feeling with no judgement and I want to talk a little bit about the many ways in which boardgames help me cope with depression and anxiety on a regular basis.

Having dealt with depression and social anxiety for as long as I can remember and often being unable to talk about it, I would like that to change. I’ve built my own little space on the internet which has helped my wellbeing and mental health in so many ways so if I’m able reassure or support even one person, then my work here is done. 

Discovering boardgames and the boardgaming community has had such a positive impact on my life. 

People often ask me why I play the kind of games that I do, what attracts me to them. One of the most simple answers I can find is that they provide an escape. A few hours away from the ‘real world’, a few hours where I am so immersed in a game that I can’t  afford to think about anything else other than what I’m doing in that moment. Planning my next move, working on a strategy, finding solutions to problems, something I often find overwhelming and exhausting in real life. It reassures me that I am able to come up with solutions, and see a way out of problems that I may face.

My brain is constantly in overdrive from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, consumed by negative thoughts, dread, worry, stress, over analysing every situation that happens throughout the day and pure exhaustion. Heavy games allow me to escape those feelings. A positive, healthy escape.

I had spent many years trying to find an escape and often found myself doing so in unhealthy toxic ways, that actually made the battle with depression much worse. Im sure it can be said for any hobby, but putting myself out there, enjoying something again, feeling motivated and feeling a sense of achievement is something that helped save my life. 

Discovering heavy games, and war-games has allowed me to learn and to be challenged which definitely has a massive effect on the way I feel. Not just in the rules of the games themselves but the topics of the games also, I have found myself becoming interested in all sorts of topics I had never really thought about before and being able to expand my knowledge on those topics. Military History, Geography, Farming, all stuff I had never really had an interest in before. (Maybe not farming so much)

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Boardgames have also given me the best tool when it comes to building and maintaining healthy relationships and friendships with people. I can be quite a confident person until the anxiety sets in, that’s when the self-doubt, worry and feeling of being inferior or undeserving of positive relationships begins. I spent a bit of time demoing games for Black box games and Esdevium games and the simple question “Would you like to play a game?” has created an easy way for me to start to connect with people. Even if the answer is no, it creates a conversation, an interest. An easy way for me to connect with people without too much pressure or stress which I have found immensely valuable. 

I am fortunate enough, that even on my dark days, I have loving friends and family including a lot of people in the boardgame community that help me get through whatever I need to get through. Most of the time, that is just playing a game and knowing that I don’t have to talk about anything I don’t want to talk about. Just being able to connect with someone with little or no pressure. 

The boardgame community has given me a new lease of life, a space where I am completely able to be myself on the good days, and the bad days with little to no judgement. A space to talk about the things that make me happy, to provide support and receive support. A place full of like-minded, creative, wonderful people.

Finding a hobby, that I enjoy and that I’m good at has been the best medicine for me.

Of course, there are still difficult days, weeks, months but boardgames make it all a bit more bearable. Boardgames have given me a voice at times when I felt like I didn’t have one or deserve one. 

Always know, that if you ever need someone to talk to, someone to just listen, or play a game with you, I’m here. It doesn’t have to be about boardgames, it can be about anything but it’s a good place to start.


27 comments on “Mental Health: Depression and boardgames, an unlikely friendship”

  1. Katie, it is so awesome that you were able to post this. I know you were scared to and it was hard, but I think it will help both you and anybody who reads it who is in a similar circumstance as you.

    A lot of what you have described, I have been touched by. Nothing near to the level that you have, and I consider myself lucky, but those feelings have been there. It’s always nice to know that there are people who are going through or who have gone through the same thing. That you’re not alone.

    My best friend has also dealt with those issues for many years, so I’ve seen the fear that’s involved in trying to express the anxieties, depression, and just horrible feeling, where you don’t think anybody will understand. Or even, as you mention, that they will think less of you.

    It says a lot about you that you had the strength to post this anyway.

    Anybody who would think less of you for expressing these feelings isn’t really worth consideration anyway.

    I’m so glad to hear that you have a good network of friends and family who can help you when you are at your worst. I have found so many in the boardgaming community who are just awesome people.

    And speaking aesthetically about your post for a moment, I love how you did the pictures in black and white to really emphasize the theme of the post. That is very effective.

    Hang in there, and know that you have a growing community of people who are there for you whenever you need it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I also have a mental illness and board games have given me something to do rather than get into trouble. Sometimes though, when the opponent is making a good move against me, I start to get depressed and it takes me a couple of days to get out of it. Otherwise, thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Due to my own anxieties, I now only buy games with a solo variant as I do not know anyone interested in my type of gaming. (Military simulations.) Also, my anxieties prevent me from reaching out to anyone who is into these games. I appreciate the blog though. I wonder how many others see boardgames as socially therapeutic for the depressed and the anxious.


  4. Everybody is different and what helps one person won’t necessary help another. Thank you for sharing and reading!


  5. After coming out of a very toxic relationship 10 years ago, re-discovering my love for wargaming, model-making and military history was a huge help in bringing me out of a downward spiral of depression and anxiety.

    This was a fantastic post and I look forward to reading more of your hobby exploits 🙂


  6. I always find it interesting to read about other people’s experiences with depression and anxiety, as it differs so much much from person to person. Each person’s journey is different, but similar. I am lucky enough to have friends and family around me that listen and try to understand, even though for some is hard when they have not experiended it personally or battling their own demons. Table top gaming is great therapy, I found social situations almost impossible, I would talk myself out of going especially if it was arranged, but my friends would pick me up, making me go and I would enjoy it. The games we played could be anything, for those few hours I felt fairly normal and enjoyed being part of the crowd.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve run a board game club at my high school for 16 years now. The benefits of board games for kids with social anxiety are immeasurable, as you say. Letting the game provide a buffer and the training wheels for social interaction until people start to get comfortable enough to engage directly with others is a huge boon.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I know your article was specific to board games, but I was just looking for an answer as to why I’m so drawn to playing sillv card games on my phone, and your answer makes perfect sense! I, too, have battled with clinical depression, and low self-esteem my whole life, so I suppose anything that will get my mind off the negativity in my own head is welcome! For the new year of 2018, I’ve decided I need to find a lasting solution for my depression, so I’m starting my search now. Anti-depressant medications never seem to work on me, so I’m always open to other avenues to better mental health. Board games do sound like a good start, so hopefully I can add that to my agenda for 2018. Thank you for your post!! 🙂


  9. Thanks for the post Katie, it was a very nice contribution and it’s helpful to people with similar issues. And great work on the rest of the website too!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful and courageous post. I have suffered for decades but losing myself in games, reading up on the hobby, painting miniatures etc. Has been such a help. When I may discreetly speak to people it is amazing to discover how many of us suffers, I guess so often we wear the mask and become such good actors at hiding our thoughts and fears. Be very proud of your post, it really struck a chord. If more people talked about it what a better world it would be. Thanks Katie! David


  11. Hi David,

    Thank you so much for your comment and thank you for reading.

    If I can help even one person than I’m happy.




  12. Hi Katie, I read you post with much interest. I am fortunate in that I have not been depressed but certainly there have been dark days, lack of confidence and self efficacy. Being able to solve a problem for ourselves, or learn a new game, perhaps taking on one that we believed we could not play and having success or finding enjoyment helps to shift my perceptions of me and I am sure that taking control in this way also helps maintain good mental health. Really nice blog, there is always room for another game or opponent pal in our lives. Sean


  13. I can really relate to this. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the boardgames I play and also part of the reason I can get out to clubs and meet other players.


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