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Three Ways Gamification Can Support Mental Health

In our recent blog post, we outlined 5 key benefits of gamification in education, but there was one very important area which felt like it deserved its own spotlight. Join us as we take a look at how gamification can be a real game-changer for mental health.


Mental health and education

After a difficult two years, mental health and wellbeing are rightfully at the forefront of everyone’s minds, as they continue to present a challenge for both teachers and pupils in the classroom. Earlier this year, a study from the Education Endowment Foundation recognised the effect of the pandemic on the mental health of children specifically and called for more research to be carried out in order to understand the long-term impact.

In the meantime, we need effective and creative solutions to help children tackle their mental health in a safe way. Gamification and games may not be the first idea you think of, with the relationship between gaming and mental health having often been seen as complex and even negative. However, even before the pandemic, researchers argued that there are lots of benefits to gaming, and that a more balanced perspective is necessary. So what’s the deal?

Inspired by Kelli Dunlap, a clinical psychologist who has a master’s in game design, we’re going to look at 3 key ways in which gamification can improve mental health.


So, how can gamification improve mental health?

1. It’s a way to relax

Perhaps most obviously, games can be a great way to relax. Dunlap suggests they can help us to get all the ‘mental health vitamins’ that we may not receive in our daily activities – and, in the context of education specifically, that relaxation can be a powerful tool. Whether your pupils are enjoying Simon Says during Circle Time or one of Sumdog’s fun and engaging games, an environment in which they can play is one in which they can relax. And an environment in which they can relax is one in which they’re much more likely to engage, contribute and learn.

2. It’s a way to connect with others

Dunlap also highlights that games and gamification can help us to form connections. In a 2021 Microsoft study, 71% of respondents said that gaming helped them to feel less isolated during the first year of the pandemic. Games can have a positive impact on our sense of community – and this is no less true in the classroom. It might be an icebreaker activity at the start of term or a shot at one of Sumdog’s multiplayer games, but either way, encouraging your pupils to work as a team and build supportive relationships together can be incredibly impactful.

3. It’s empowering for every pupil

In Dunlap’s words, gamification can help mental health by allowing everyone to ‘feel competent’. She highlights that gamification counteracts ‘ the self-defeating narratives’ that accompany many mental health issues, with empowerment and positive feedback being crucial to this transformative process. Giving every pupil self-confidence in their own ability is essential! With Sumdog, maths practice is personalised, so whilst they’re playing the same game as their friends, they can answer questions at their own level – and they receive gentle encouragement and feedback based on their answers.


Where do we go from here?

As mental health and wellbeing continue to be evermore important, we need to create environments in which children can relax, connect, and feel accomplished. Games and gamification can be one of the many tools we use to do this.

With 30 fun games, motivating feedback, fun community features, and personalised practice, Sumdog can be a powerful tool to help you support the wellbeing of all of your pupils – including those who are struggling the most. Together, we can level the playing field!


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* Albert van de Meer,  The benefits of gamification for mental health – UXDesign [online], Available at: <https://uxdesign.cc/the-benefits-of-gamification-for-mental-health-656f9e4cbcce>.
* Education Endowment Foundation, The Impact of COVID-19 on Learning: A review of the evidence [online], Available at <https://d2tic4wvo1iusb.cloudfront.net/documents/guidance-for-teachers/covid-19/Impact_of_Covid_on_Learning.pdf?v=1666693500>
* Isabela Granic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Benefits of Playing Video Games [online], Available at: <https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-a0034857.pdf>

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