An idle hobby to some, video games can be lifesaving, grounding, and even therapeutic for those who have served overseas in combat zones. Vets and medical researchers are using video games to treat PTSD, depression, and more. Best of all, it's working.
According to the RAND Organization, 18.5 percent of service members returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan meet the criteria for either depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
42-year-old Noel Nero Gregorio grew up during Nintendo's dominance of the console market.
Originally from the Philippines, he moved to California in 1991, joined the Army in 2003, did a couple tours in Iraq, then signed up for the Marine Corps. His PTSD cemented itself in April 2008, after surviving a suicide bomber attack in Iraq. He had nightmares. His anger began to build. A lot of that crossed over when he got out of the military.
Now he plays Animal Crossing when he needs to relax.
Michelle Colder Carras sees games as a treatment, not just a respite. A researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who specializes in treating veterans, her 2018 study on how gaming can help veterans with mental health issues found that vets use games in a variety of ways to better their mental health, whether it's through connecting with others, coping with symptoms of PTSD, suicidality, or substance cravings, or creating meaningful leadership roles or even jobs through games.
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