The Grapevine

Through The Lens Of Mental Illness: ‘Hellblade’ Video Game Shows What It’s Like To Suffer From Psychosis

hellblade
The video game's protagonist, Senua, experiences mental illness, providing a new perspective to players. YouTube

There are over 40 million adults in the U.S. who have some form of mental illness (that’s about 18 percent of the population), but a negative stigma around mental illness still remains. That’s likely because in many parts of the world, mental illness is often stereotyped as someone’s fault or a blemish on character — or otherwise swept under the rug, misdiagnosed, or dismissed.

Books and movies, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, have attempted to break down the stigma over the years and illuminate that mental illness is just as debilitating as having a physical condition. But never before have video games attempted to do that — until now.

Hellblade, a beautifully-rendered and realistic video game that’s set to be released in 2016, is a third person point-of-view game that follows a Celtic character named Senua who suffers from mental illness. Her illness is portrayed by the game’s setting, a dark, ominous forest filled with monsters and hellish creatures that she must learn to navigate and face head-on.

“The game’s protagonist experiences psychosis, and suffers from depression and anxiety,” Dominic Matthews, product development manager at Ninja Theory, told Vice. “Her ‘journey into hell’ is a manifestation of her mental health. As it’s a third-person game, the camera sits behind her, and as a player you see her personal health through her eyes.”

A large chunk of people with mental illness — whether it’s mild depression or bipolar disorder — have experienced the negative impact of stigma before. But it must be peeled away so we can learn how to treat mental health better in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Ultimately, Hellblade’s creators hope that it will allow people to empathize more with sufferers of mental illness in general — not only psychosis. Psychosis is often confused with psychopathy, but in reality they’re two separate conditions. The former is a term that encompasses a lot of different mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and often bipolar disorder.

Watch the trailer for the video game below.

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