Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Day Julie Piedrabuena, VP of People at our Corporate Ambassador ustwo games, discusses protecting the wellbeing of individuals and teams…

Someone recently asked me about my experience of working in the games industry. I said, ‘it can be a wonderful space for creativity, inspiration and growth. And an opportunity to work with extraordinary people’.

I think we can all vouch for that. But as in many other industries, it isn’t always easy to talk about mental health in games, either as an organisation or as an individual.

But given that 1 in 4 people struggle with their mental health and that it’s one of the top causes of both short-term and long-term absence in the UK, we simply cannot ignore it.

In fact, Ukie’s most recent census data revealed that anxiety and depression rates in games are higher than rates in the general population, with 8% of the people who responded saying they suffered from anxiety, depression or both. That is up from 31% before the pandemic.

The great news is that anecdotal evidence shows that many companies within games are increasing their focus on mental health and wellbeing and looking for new ways to support their employees. The pandemic, and the subsequent shift to hybrid working models, has been a huge catalyst for this renewed focus.

Changes that were initially reactive have evolved into a more strategic approach, and at ustwo games that encompasses Employee Assistance Programmes, Wellbeing Initiatives, Mental Health Support and Staff Training.

We’re still learning, but how can we all ensure these kinds of approaches work for both a business and its employees? For us, we have found the key is to collect employee feedback constantly via things like anonymous surveys, meetings and one-to-ones to better understand how post-pandemic changes and new ways of working are impacting mental health.

It’s an ongoing way for everyone to contribute tangibly to the work taking place at all levels and areas of the business, its policies, initiatives and overall strategy.

But for this approach to work, we also need empathetic leaders. Maria Sayans, our CEO and a long-time women in games advocate, is a great example of exactly that, always prioritising kindness and understanding.

I’ve seen Maria in meetings with leadership and the teams, talking about her experience without fear of being vulnerable, so we see a leader we can approach, someone open to learn from their experience and mistakes, someone honest, willing to take risks and always open to listen. She is also key to ensuring those mental health and wellbeing initiatives we propose become a reality.

All companies are different, but mental health and wellbeing should never be a tickbox exercise, it needs to be a central part of strategy. Be open to changing existing policies and initiatives to make them better and more relevant to employees, with a focus on inclusion at all times.

Don’t be afraid of getting something wrong – no size fits all. There are many partners who are ready and willing to help with your own journey, whether that’s right here within the Women in Games community or across the wider industry such as Ukie, Safe In Our World or Into Games.

Finally, feel free to contact any of us here: we may not have the right answer for your studio, but we can share our experience, resources or connections.

Together I hope we can continue to raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing as a long term commitment for our industry, always putting our people first.

The Women in Games Annual Global Conference will be discussing the theme of wellbeing next Tuesday (October 10th). You can get your ticket to this virtual event here –