Online communities are often the go-to spaces for escapism from mental illness or those seeking support from others with similar experiences. What was once a World of Warcraft guild is now a nonprofit organization called RAD, and it has transformed the lives of thousands of gamers on a global scale.
When the right people come together in these spaces, a small idea can turn into something much bigger that helps thousands. That is exactly what happened with RAD (Rise Above the Disorder), a nonprofit organization helping to transform the lives of young people who struggle to access help for their mental health.
The idea originated a decade ago from within a World of Warcraft Guild, called ‘Anxiety Gaming,’ after a member took his own life because mental health services were expensive and impossible to access. This is a common issue, with nearly 70% of all US adults and teens who seek mental healthcare citing access and cost as the main reasons why they haven’t started.
Neuroscientist, guild leader, and now RAD founder, Jason Docton, spoke to Dexerto about his commitment to turning that issue around.
Anxiety Gaming becomes RAD
The group began by crowdfunding mental health care for those who came to them for help, starting within their own World of Warcraft guild and then expanding to League of Legends – although it quickly attracted interested globally, even from non-gamers.
In fact, it became so successful that in 2016 they hosted Legends vs. Dragons, a charity event where popular band Imagine Dragons faced against the top five League of Legends players and raised over $125k. Despite this impressive success, carrying on was a struggle, and RAD’s founders were unable to pull together the funds to continue in the same way.
“That all changed when we got an email from this 19-year-old in Georgia,” Jason explained.
“They had decided to stay home one night when their parents and grandparents were going to go out to dinner, and their parents and their grandparents got in a horrible car accident and didn’t survive. And so this kid was just alone… He lived out in rural Georgia, so there wasn’t really anybody around him to look after him.”
Jason’s team put all of their leftover funds and efforts into trying to help this person but were met by obstacle after obstacle, and after being forced into homelessness, this teenager tragically took his life.
Jason was devastated. “It just tore the whole group apart,” he said. “It didn’t make sense that a teenager was left to die because they couldn’t afford mental health care.”
It prompted the group to try again by rebranding to attract more people. “We had already failed. So usually, people don’t start there, but we decided to give it a shot.”
It wasn’t in vain. Jason says RAD has now helped over 36,000 people in 133 countries, and their program boasts a 30% higher success rate than traditional therapy programs. “We’re just not letting that that flame go out.”
Ultimately, Jason says it is the gaming community that has kept RAD alive, describing Twitch as “the backbone of our organization.” As it turns out, 74% of the people in RAD programs discovered them through Twitch, with more than 80% of their total funding stemming from fundraising by content creators.
Our friend @MattWaldenAC is as RAD as they come.
— Rise Above The Disorder (@YouAreRAD) December 12, 2020
“I think it’s because we’re just a part of it,” Jason said, lauding an incredible response from the gaming community. “We’re not going to say the solution is to play fewer games, to go offline.”
Most recently, RAD has been working closely with Minecraft creators, who bring a young audience that doesn’t already have a huge stigma around mental health. “These content creators are coming in and saying, ‘Yeah, this is OK to talk about. This is important to do.'”
As RAD continues to make huge waves in the gaming community, this next month is gearing up for a giant push forward, with events happening every day in May to raise funds. The group will be working with massive creators across the board, including popular streamers xQc, Sweet Anita, and AustinTalkShow, although the fine details aren’t public just yet.
How does RAD work?
RAD works by paying for and pairing up those in need with therapists, with no cost to you. These costs are covered by charity streams organized by content creators, alongside corporate sponsorships. All funds raised on stream are entirely reserved for anyone watching that specific stream or event.
If you’d like to use RAD’s services, all you need to do is head to their website, click on “Find Support,” and select either “apply for grant” or “find a therapist.” From there, you can submit an application for care, and you should get a response within 2 weeks.
You can also support RAD by donating directly through their website or signing up as a volunteer.