Some time ago an augmented reality game was released, stirring a craze among both adults and children all over the world, transforming them into diligent trainers who would literally go to great lengths to catch ‘em all. But not only is the game challenging and entertaining, it could possibly improve the mental health of people!
In overseas internet forums, a woman shared that she had been suffering from depression and was largely home bound. But the game gave her motivation to go out of her house, and made her walk long distances, which in effect is exercising, and it helped relieve her symptoms. Another person reported that his sister was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, and was extremely fearful in talking with stranger. Yet because of the game, she started interacting with other stranger trainers in her area, and they would excitedly exchange information and tips in playing. There was also a father who said on the internet that after his aloof son who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder downloaded the game, he started initiating conversations related to the game with other children, and even spontaneously invited children in his neighborhood to catch Pokemons together.
The game certainly gives people a reason to get out of their houses, exercise, communicate with others, and explore their neighbourhood. These are things that help improve mood in people, especially for people suffering from mental illnesses who lack the drive to get active and socialize. Thus this game may help in their recovery. But be cautioned that since there are individual differences in the responses to games, and to psychologists who emphasize evidence-based treatments, the lack of large-scale systematic researches made it hard to conclude that the game must be beneficial to mental health. The only evidence-based treatments for mental disorders remain to be medication, psychotherapy, and rehabilitation and training.
Finally, just a word of caution to all players: please play safely and in moderation, because a doctor friend said that recently there had been a rise in the number of people seeking treatment due to overuse of muscles, as they change suddenly from being sedentary to very active due to the game.
Lees, K., & Science, W. R. (2016). PokéMon Go Update: PokéMon Go Helps Players Deal With Depression, Other Mental Health Conditions. Health & Medicine : Science World Report, 2016-7.