“Breaking It Down”, a weekly column here at Breaking down growing trends, issues, news and opinions in eSports. The opinions written here aren’t a reflection of the opinions of SplitPush’s staff or any of the other writers/contributors. Getting down to the nitty-gritty, a no holds barred column that sparks debate and discussion.

A few hours ago, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng released an emotional statement, one which opened up an avenue of discussion on the substantive topic of depression and mental illness.

Depression and other mental illnesses have empirically affected millions of individuals across the world, plaguing them with elongated physical and mental pain throughout years, if not a life-time of affliction if not diagnosed and treated properly. Dating back centuries this age old affliction has been remedied through drugs and counseling. Sometimes brought on by a growing bubble of self-doubt, anxiety, harassment and oppression which is what we’ll be talking about today.

Depression among other mental ailments are part of a larger complex issue which are gleaned over and treated as a non-issue resulting in the lack of funding, exposure, and support for affected individuals who need it most to get better. Doublelift’s post is a harsh reminder that we are just skin and bones.

In lieu of the overwhelming positive response by the community and publications in response to Doublelift’s post, I decided to cover the topic in solidarity to show the world of eSports that we are all in this together. Things will get better. We must all play our part. Never give up hope and never be afraid to ask for help.

“Get over it”,
“Don’t be a baby”,
“Stop being such a pussy”,
“Trash waste of life”,
“You’re fucking trash, kill yourself.”

Harsh, destructive, soul-crushing words you could picture a stereotypical movie bully yelling down at the shorter, fatter, weaker, scared individual as he hovers over him, threatening him with physical violence because he wants to, and because he can. “Holy shit”, you say and ponder among yourself as you wildly run the scenario through your head. You sigh out of relief knowing that this is all in your imagination, but the reality is, you don’t need look to Hollywood to find that malevolence, you can find this in your neighborhoods, your schools, your communities, your games, your average Twitch chats.

For the sake of keeping this topic from derailing, we’ll keep this within the vertical of eSports, however we’ll run the narratives synonymous to the relevant points which cause depression, anxiety and other mental ailments. We’ll discuss the broader implication in another segment.

Don’t be ashamed or shelter yourself, ask for help, someone is out there yearning to reach out.

I covered ways of helping adjust physical/mental growth for those who are trying to make a career as a professional player. The write-up covers everything from dieting, mental preparations, physical activities, and other key functions necessary to make it as a professional engaging the scene from the entry-level player perspective. It didn’t cover the ramifications of the stress which accumulates over time which deserved a follow up of its own, and with the topic being talked about around National Monthly Health Day this is a perfect time honestly address this topic.

It’s fair to say the life of an average professional player is tough. They’re working 12+ hour shifts, they’re under strict deadlines and schedules, they’re constantly scrutinized by their fans for under-performing, attacked by communities because of jealousy, rage, or because they simply can. Their lives are flipped 180° once they turn professional. You do what you can to win or someone else will do it. They sacrifice their relationships, their time, their youth, to play at the highest level in their respective fields. Intensified as a prospect player who is almost at professional. Amplified similarly as a streamer getting larger and more popular.

All that takes its toll and it’s hard for an average professional player to admit that it’s too much at times. An average professional players career spans around 1-3 years, depending on their skills, their connections, and their persona they show off to the world, organizations and the brands that inhabit the endemic atmosphere. They assume they aren’t attractive if they are seen as this broken, burned out, and failing individual so they don’t openly admit their depression until they’re at their breaking point.

We look at the cases of Alec “Tiptoe” Schmidt, an aspiring CoD player who played in the semi-professional scene who succumbed to his depression. To the outside world he was this loving, nurturing and driven individual but no one knew what was happening in the inside. We look at the case of the mother/son double-suicide in China, or the infamous case of the suicide attempt by LoL professional player Cheon “Promise” Min Ki after a match-fixing scandal broke out.  Different context but all molded by depression, fear, and other mental afflictions which could have been treated if the signs just showed up or someone was looking harder.

The sad truth is we’ll never know why they took their lives but from the outside looking in we can assume their professional and personal life left a burden that went unnoticed to the outside world. To this day these examples make the hair on my knuckles stand up, it gives me goosebumps and it hurts my soul. As a society we have governments who historically haven’t done enough, we have people openly oppressing and marginalizing the mentally ill and we have businesses profiting off diseases in the pharmaceutical industry without putting time and money back into the research it deserves.

Our industry and societal leaders are working on progress, look to them for the future

Fortunately, we as a society and an industry are making strides in fixing our wrongs with new initiatives, programs, non-profits and foundations who truly are making treating mental illnesses are priority. Whether it’s internally with eSports organizations hiring psychologists, psychical trainers, or being proactive in ensuring symptoms are being flagged and players are getting the support they need to adjust to the stressful environment.

Externally as a society veterans in the US for example are being looked after extensively. Now many may argue it’s not enough, but the progress like many takes time and the principal action speaks volume. There’s an average of 20 suicides a day in the veteran community, recently US President Obama during a CNN town hall meeting said this in response to a question about suicide and how they are changing the stereotype (of being weak for having PTSD, etc) and label of the mentally ill in the military:

If you break your leg, you’re going to go to a doctor to get that leg healed. If, as a consequence of the extraordinary stress and pain that you are witnessing, typically, in a battlefield, something inside you feels like it’s wounded, it’s just like a physical injury.  You’ve got to go get help.  And there’s nothing weak about that. That’s strong. And that is what will allow you then to continue to – with your service and there shouldn’t be a stigma against it.

A powerful and resonating statement made in front of a gallery of military veterans and families of deceased military. He panned his head toward the camera and finished his statement with an even more powerful sentiment:

But the fact that there’s still 20 a day who are feeling hopeless means that we’ve got to do more. And, you know, anybody who’s watching right now, if you call the, you know, veterans help line, there’s going to be somebody there to answer.

As a nation we heal together, our thoughts and prayers are felt universally. As someone who suffers from depression, I need to constantly remind myself that it’ll be alright. I do the very things I recommend, I eat healthier, I workout, I openly talk about my problems with friends and family, life is hard, at times there is nothing but negativity, but at the same time sometimes it’s so beautiful and naturally altruistic, it’s worth being here and I want everyone to know that. To see our commander-in-chief address the nation, the veterans and current military, it instills hope and shows me that a brighter future awaits.

Many key figures in your country do the same. Our US president is just one example. Your leaders in one way or are fighting for your better and brighter future. Look at these figures and remember they are speaking honestly when they say it’s okay to be open, it’s okay to feel down, just know you can get treatment to fix those prolonged feelings of emptiness, sorrowfulness, and guilt. Don’t feel like you’re weak for feeling the way you do.

Its never okay to turn away someone in need

You may not be a professional counselor or someone who isn’t necessarily the best at advice-giving, but if you see someone showing symptoms of depression, anxiety or sadness, please help them. Extend your hand and offer them the support they need. Help them out personally or help them by taking them to someone who can. A school counselor, a teacher, a parent, a close friend or an anonymous hotline. Opening up is hard but never give up, that extra mile can be a key decider.

In eSports and gaming, there are oppressed groups who are marginalized for their gender, their race, their ethnicity, their skill level, their accent and so forth. If you’re queued up in a lobby and see someone insulting someone or harassing them please stand up and make that conscience decision to help someone in need. Chances are the others who overheard will stand up once a leader has taken initiative. Don’t just do this in your game, do it in a real world setting.

Be a better person, give someone that spot during lunch, move over and give that elder lady a spot on the train, loan someone that extra dollar they need in line, help someone with their locker or guide them to their destination. The values we instill in our principal cores are a reflect on how you are as a person. These examples I give can and should be used throughout your life to mold you into the person you always wanted to be.

I’m talking to you, the asshole

In retrospect we look at toxicity and the emphatic negativeness plaguing online communities which includes gaming and eSports. We look at the negativeness and use that as talking point. Trolling, flaming, serious harassment or shaming are harmful. In the context of Doublelift’s post, it shows you how harmful it was to him and his environment. To lose a championship run after a great season is enough to bring people down. Add into the mix, insults and serious threats it affects people in level unseen to the fan.

It makes them feel like shit and you get a nice little giggle like the asshole you are. Some individuals openly invite you to mess with them, professional players and streamers alike are sometimes alright with that but that doesn’t give you an open invite to harass and insult players on their social footprint and their streams. You wouldn’t like your sister bullied online, so why would you inflict the same on someone else?

This is 2016, this shouldn’t be an issue but sadly it has since gotten worse. Will Green of Narus Advisors published a report estimating that csgolounge took in 1 billion dollars in profit last year. That’s a lot of money, imagine user who lost some of those skins sold. Some ignorant and oblivious enough to justify openly harassing and insulting players. No one told you to bet your money or your skins, accept the consequence and ramifications of your actions like an adult, asshole.

If you think it’s alright to do the malicious things I mentioned then I think you need a wake up call. These are real people you are hurting and they face an unreal amount of hate just for doing their jobs. On top of the stuff they go through, you are putting them in a bad position and are facilitating some deeper wounds. Stop it dickhead. Realize what you’re doing is wrong and discontinue it before you inflict a deadly blow.

The way I just spoke down to you. I bet it made you feel upset, even if you’re afraid to admit it, it made you feel embarrassed and disgusted. Imagine if I amplified my hate, imagine if I did it consistently and no one was there to help you.. Imagine I paraded around your job insulting your ever move, judging and critiquing your every decision, imagine I followed you after your work and belittled you for your performance, to everyone you know? how would you feel?

For more information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) or Samaritans (U.K.). 

Managing Director: eSportsRDA. I like food and good screenplays. I don't hold my tongue, sorry mom. Inquiries @Mellowwalt for tweets and shit.