The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has announced their plans to open a new clinic specializing in treatments for people who struggle with a gaming addiction. It will be part of the National Centre of Behavioural Addiction and located beside the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London. The clinic will also provide treatment and support for internet addiction.
It’s not clear how the NHS exactly defines “gaming addiction” or effectively treats it, though their announcement references the World Health Organization’s gaming disorder classification, which was officially recognized this year. Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the NHS’ new Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorder and spokeswoman on behavioral addictions for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, defines gaming disorder as “a mental health condition which can have a hugely debilitating effect on people’s lives, both for patients and their families who can be left feeling utterly helpless in the wake of their loved one’s addiction.” However, the WHO avoids using the word “addiction” in their definitions, somewhat contrasting with the NHS’ interpretation of the disorder.
The NHS is making this move in response to “growing concerns” about the mental health of children and teenagers who play video games excessively, according to Claire Murdoch, the NHS national mental health director. Murdoch is hopeful that the NHS’ “new, innovative services” will support people, but calls upon “tech giants” to “recognize the impact that products which encourage repeated and persistent use have on young people and start taking their responsibilities seriously too.”
Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people at the Royal College of Nursing, also called upon tech companies to take responsibility, arguing they should financially contribute to the NHS: “The NHS…and taxpayers can’t foot the bill alone. Online gaming firms and global social media firms who make millions of pounds of profit must take more responsibility by keeping their platforms safe, and introduce safeguards to reduce the burden on the health service.”
This new clinic is aimed at supporting people between the ages of 13 and 25 who are negatively affected by “severe or complex behavioral issues associated with gaming, gambling, and social media.” Patients who are referred to the center can attend in person or have online consultations via Skype. Staff will include clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, therapists, and psychiatrists who specialize in treating children and young people. Treatments are set to start next month.