Tag Archives: World Health Organization

“Be A Looper” – Suicide Prevention App

By Tracey Dowdy  

According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, but fewer than half of them receive any treatments.

It’s a statistic that seemed all too relatable for Amanda Johnstone, who lost twelve friends to suicide. Though the reasons each took their own life varied, they had one common denominator. “They all thought they were a burden, and it was too hard to keep reaching out,” says Johnstone.

To manage her grief and hyper-aware of the need for emotional support, Johnstone cam up with the idea of organizing close friends into a group SMS text that would serve as a routine, low-key mental health check-up. Every day at 4 pm, each would rate their mental state on a scale of one to ten, so those who were struggling had immediate resources and support.

Johnstone’s idea was even better in practice than in theory, so she took the idea to a developer who helped her create “Be a Looper,” a free peer-support app enabling users to touch base with five friends daily. Launched in November 2017, Be A Looper has spread to 76 countries—with Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. as the top three users—and was nominated for the 2018 Global Mobile Awards. 

The apps help users to both share how their day is tracking and keeps a close eye on those that may need support. Users can add up to five ‘Loopers’ into their network, and all networks are private. When an individual Looper is added, they are prevented from seeing other people. Instead – they get to create their safe network. The app doesn’t work offline, but users don’t need to have cellular reception just be connected to the internet (either via WiFi or via data) to use the Be A Looper app.

“We are all on our phones all the time, so it made so much sense to create something that’s already in people’s hands, which gives them that nudge to reach out and take a little bit of care of each other,” says Johnstone.

 If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911 or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Gaming Disorder Included in WHO List of International Classification of Diseases

By Tracey Dowdy

Back in June 2018, the World Health Organization added “Gaming Disorder” to its list of modern diseases. In May 2019, they updated its classification under the heading “potentially harmful technology-related behaviors,” including excessive use of “the internet, computers, smartphones” and more.

The WHO describes gaming disorder as: “a pattern of behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Also included is the qualification that “For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”

The decision is not without controversy as the WHO faced strong opposition from trade groups within the video game industry like Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), both citing research that counters the WHO’s claims.

In January 2019, ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis stated, “more conversation and education” between ESA and the WHO was necessary before a final decision was made. “As an industry we are committed to collaborating with stakeholders, researchers, policymakers, and parents to ensure best-in-class ratings, parental controls, and other tools help video game players and parents understand and manage healthy video game play.”

In a statement issued to GamesIndustry.biz, managing director Simon Little said: “Classifying ‘gaming disorder’ under the mental health and addiction category of the ICD-11 list may well lead to abuse of diagnosis and misdiagnosis as such inclusion is not based on a high level of evidence, as would be required to formalise any other disorder.”

Of course, the controversy surrounding gaming addiction isn’t new. In the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), The American Psychiatric Association says it’s “a condition warranting more clinical research and experience” before it will be included as a formal disorder.

The American Medical Association made its stance clear back in 2007. “There is nothing here to suggest that this is a complex physiological disease state akin to alcoholism or other substance abuse disorders, and it doesn’t get to have the word addiction attached to it,” said Dr. Stuart Gitlow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Despite opposition, “gaming addiction” has been officially adopted into the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) at the 72nd World Health Assembly.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.