Youth mental health in America has been declining for a decade. The pandemic amplified these declines. Schools have a big part to play to reverse these trends.
To better equip schools to tackle the youth mental health crisis we are lining up allies to help us expand SuperBetter into the EdTech industry. Our plan includes a new group play feature that makes it simple for teachers to host games for students.
SuperBetter brings social-emotional learning to life for middle school and high school classrooms in a way that’s practical and engaging. Teachers host SuperBetter games that students play in real life to develop social-emotional skills and improve their resilience and mental health.
Our plan is receiving positive feedback from the EdTech industry. We’re honored to share the following accolades:
SuperBetter is known for using the science of games to improve real lives.
Over 1 million people have played SuperBetter to improve their resilience, mental health and social-emotional skills. The SuperBetter methodology empowers success by bringing the same mindset and psychology used in game play into the real world. The approach behind this methodology is called “Gameful Design.”
The term “gamification” was coined by computer programmer Nick Pelling in the early 2000s to signify the application of game mechanics, particularly from video games, in non-game areas.
Gamification is now a big business and growing rapidly. A recent research report projects that the global gamification market will triple in size from $9.1 billion in 2020 to a whopping $30.7 billion by 2025.
Game mechanics are tactics commonly found in games — like badges, points and leaderboards. These elements borrowed from games are typically added to non-game products to incentivize a desired behavior by adding a bit of extrinsic reward or competition.
For SuperBetter we find that the mechanics of games is the wrong place to start.
Jane McGonigal, the inventor of SuperBetter, coined the term gameful design in 2010 to represent a particular approach to applying game design principles to real world situations. Gameful design is the philosophy of applying the deep, intrinsically motivating elements of games to non-game areas, not just making use of game tactics like badges, points and leaderboards.
As humans we are naturally attracted to playing games. 2.7 billion people around the world now play video games – more than a third of the planet’s population.
When we play games we take on a different mindset. We are focused on a goal. We are optimistic, determined, creative and courageous. We recruit allies for support. It’s ok to fail in games – in fact we fail 80% of the time – and each time we build our resilience and mental flexibility as we try new strategies to succeed.
Instead of the tactical elements of games, gameful design starts with an understanding of the psychology, mindset and deeply satisfying properties that make games so attractive to so many people in the first place. Some of these properties include the way that game play fosters autonomy, agency, meaning, emotion, flow, immediate feedback and sense of competence. These properties attract people by helping them do what they really want to do – whether that is to feel better, reach their goals, or connect with others.
As you play SuperBetter you’ll recognize game tactics like badges and points. Rest assured that these tactics are in service of the bigger philosophy of gameful design.
Please know that we’re never offended when people call SuperBetter a gamification company. It usually leads to a rich conversation about differences between gameful and gamified, intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators, and the true potential of game science to solve real problems and change the world.
Moonshot Impact Gallery
And speaking of changing the world. we’re honored that SuperBetter is now showcased in the Moonshot Impact Gallery for promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the areas of good health & wellbeing and quality education.
K-12 schools have a big role to play to help reverse the alarming declines in youth mental health & wellbeing
Our nation is facing a youth mental health crisis, and it started well before the pandemic. The mental health of America’s youth has been declining for nearly a decade. Depression rates surged +61% among 12-25 year-olds between 2011-2017 (Journal of Abnormal Psychology). Youth anxiety and suicide rates are way up too.
Teachers are on the front-lines of our youth mental health crisis. They see the impact in their students’ lives nearly every day.
K-12 schools are important allies to help reverse the declines in youth mental health and wellbeing. Educators have the reach and influence to proactively equip students with skills and resources that increase resilience, mental health and social emotional learning. At SuperBetter, we are working to empower their success.
The pandemic is compounding the youth mental health crisis
A case for proactively building skills & resources
Tackling America’s youth mental health crisis requires a focus on treatment andprevention.
For treatment, access to mental health care is a major challenge in the healthcare industry. Even before the pandemic only about half (51%) of youth age 6-17 with a mental health condition received treatment in a given year. Improving access to mental health care is a high priority. In parallel we need preventive efforts that work upstream of the problem and reduce the onset of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.
Preventing the onset of mental health conditions early in life is a smart strategy regardless of whether we’re in the midst of a crisis. Unlike diseases of aging, mental health conditions often start early in life. According to NAMI, 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
The education sector is an obvious ally to implement a prevention strategy to improve youth mental health and wellbeing. Front-line educators have tremendous influence on their students’ lives. Teachers have competencies, access and motive to help students proactively build skills and resources to thrive. These skills and resources may fall under strategies for social emotional learning, student resilience and/or mental health literacy.
Nearly all teachers recognize that developing social emotional skills will also increase student success. In a recent Rand Study 90% of elementary and secondary school teachers agreed that promoting social emotional learning would help to improve students’ academic achievement.
Teachers are generally confident in their ability to improve students’ social and emotional competencies, but they need effective and engaging tools to support their efforts.
An evidence-based tool to impact the youth mental health crisis
While not (yet) designed specifically for educators and youth, many teachers are using our SuperBetter methodology to support their goals.
SuperBetter is a game-based learning platform that empowers educators & students to increase resilience, mental health and social emotional learning.
With its gameful methodology, playing SuperBetter engages students to practice skills, overcome challenges and develop habits in the real world.
A recommended resource for K-12 educators and students
SuperBetter is promoted by many K-12 schools as a resource to improve student mental health, build resilience, reduce stress and support social emotional learning. We regularly express our gratitude to these school allies by posting #ShoutOuts on our Twitter feed.
Classcraft recognized SuperBetter as 1 of the 5 best apps that teachers can use to help students develop social emotional learning skills.
SuperBetter is also promoted as a resource for the wellbeing of educators and staff. This ‘Self Care for Teachers‘ webcast from Grand Canyon University K12 Professional Development recently featured SuperBetter as a tool for teachers and students.
Teachers are creating SuperBetter Classrooms
We’re inspired by the resourcefulness and creativity of teachers around the country that use our gameful SuperBetter methodology as a practical way to engage students and bring social emotional learning concepts to life.
For example, this Mr. Sticky Chair bad guy poster is for the classroom teacher. He recruited his students to be his allies and let him know when he was sitting for longer than ten minutes.
A the bottom of this post we share more examples of fun and helpful materials created by teachers for their SuperBetter Classrooms.
K-12 teachers also find the SuperBetter, The Power of Living Gamefully book to be a helpful resource. The book has a chapter for each rule of playing SuperBetter (the methodology) that explains how the rule works, the science behind it, and activities to practice the rule in real life.
In his SlowChatHealth blog former SHAPE America National High School Health Teacher of the Year Andrew Milne shares that “some of my favorite go-to SEL activities come from the book SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal, in which there are nearly 100, easy to complete, ‘quests’ that you, or your students, can take in order to live life gamefully and ‘level up’ in life.”
Our new project to tailor SuperBetter for educators & students
We could’t be happier that SuperBetter empowers so many K-12 schools, teachers and students — even in its current form as a broad reaching self-help app (and helpful book).
Now we want to make it much easier for teachers to use SuperBetter with their classrooms. And we want to do it in a way that intentionally promotes the mental health & wellbeing of all students including youth of color and LGBTQ+.
We are lining up resources and alliances for a new project to tailor our app for educators & students. The project will add a new group play experience that enables teachers to host SuperBetter games for their students, and include additional resources to promote resilience, mental health and social-emotional learning.
It’s one way we’re doing our part to help tackle America’s youth mental health crisis.
In this post, we share what’s making us thankful, the bold mission that serves as our North Star, a new alliance to grow our impact, and resources to help navigate life in 2020.
Passing the 1 million player mark is an epic milestone for the SuperBetter Community. Thank you for being part of it.
SuperBetter brings the mindset and psychology of game play to real life to overcome tough situations. It’s a support system for success. Published studies show that playing SuperBetter increases resilience, mental health and social-emotional skills.
While passing the 1 million player mark is a notable achievement, it’s the stories about how SuperBetter impacts lives that touch our hearts. We smile from ear-to-ear when we read social media posts, emails and reviews sharing how playing SuperBetter helped to overcome a difficult obstacle or achieve success in some area of life.
We appreciate all the allies around the world who believe in SuperBetter and recommend it to others. We do a happy dance every time we learn about another educator, therapist, K-12 school, college or university recommending our app.
And we are thankful for our allies in the media. Their stories create awareness to grow our community. This is especially helpful since the SuperBetter app is 100% free right now, and free means no budget for advertising.
One thing is clear, the world needs more of SuperBetter right now.
This is especially true for youth, a group which has experienced alarming increases in depression and anxiety rates over the past 8 years, including +61% growth in the prevalence of depression among age 12-17 between 2011-2017.
The pandemic is further adding to the mental health burden. In a CDC survey from June, a shocking 25.5% of young adults age 18-24 reported suicidal ideation in the past 30 days.
It’s time for SuperBetter to level up.
We’ve created a bold new mission statement as our guiding North Star:
To unlock the heroic potential of 50 million youth by 2025
Growing our impact from 1 million to 50 million people in 5 years will require world-class allies. We’re working on plans to achieve this level of impact in a way that is both scalable and sustainable.
Unlocking Heroic Potential in Developing Countries
While the SuperBetter team implements a plan to grow our impact in the developed world, a new alliance with Children for Health is bringing our proven resilience-building methodology to youth in developing countries.
Children for Health is a respected UK-based non-profit that creates and distributes resources for educators and students in low resource settings in developing countries. Their approach promotes child and adolescent health & wellbeing while empowering youth to be agents of change for their families & communities.
Children for Health has already incorporated SuperBetter activities in a new storybook called Unlocked.
The Unlocked story and activities help children learn how to increase their resilience and feelings of wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You are welcome to share the link for the free storybook with educators, parents & anyone else impacting children who might benefit — regardless of where they live in the world.
The vision for the SuperBetter Children for Health alliance can be found here.
Children for Health’s current projectis a new resilience and wellbeing curriculum, SuperBetter Children in Africa. Designed for children age 10-14, the program is being developed alongside educators in low resource settings in Africa. It will be initially introduced in rural Zambia and Tanzania.
A similar project developed with input from educators in India will adapt the curriculum for a project called SuperBetter Children in India.
If you’re interested in learning more or supporting this work, reach out to the Children for Health team here.
Take Care of Yourself in 2020
2020 has been a challenging year for nearly everyone. Please prioritize your own self-care.
If you’re struggling, know that you are not alone. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, more than half of US adults (53%) reported that their mental health is negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the pandemic.
As a member of the SuperBetter Community, you are invited to attend REFUEL, a free virtual wellbeing event to restore and inspire you for the year ahead. The Dec. 16 event includes 5 amazing speakers including Tony Hawk and SuperBetter inventor Jane McGonigal. Learn more and register here.
We’re happy to be in a position to make the SuperBetter app available as a 100% free resource right now.
Note that a tradeoff of keeping the apps free is the lack of resources to make regular updates, and the apps can be buggy. If you have trouble on your device, try the website. Be sure to explore the Secret Lab and bonus Ally features available on the website version!
As physical distancing limits in-person social connections, more people are finding support in virtual communities like our SuperBetter Community Group on Facebook. With over 4,000 members, it’s an amazing place to find allies and encouragement. You can join the community here.
It’s been just over 100 days since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.
As the world began the scramble to find tests, respirators, masks and vaccine candidates to address the physical crisis, we anticipated the emerging COVID-19 mental health crisis on the horizon.
Our small team urgently shifted our efforts to help people navigate the mental health burden that would inevitably accompany the pandemic.
We’re especially concerned about the mental health burden of COVID-19 among high risk populations including young adults, youth and underserved communities.
Experts Predict a Global Mental Health Crisis
The United Nations warns of a global mental health crisis during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Issues of systemic racism in America compound the crisis. In a recent USA Today story America is in turmoil, and a mental health crisis looms next, Jaime Diaz-Granados, acting chief scientific officer at the American Psychological Association reports “We are facing a culmination of crises unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes – in coronavirus, economic turmoil and racism.”
Many factors are contributing to the mental health burden in America and globally. The impact will be felt for years. They include loss of normalcy, economic distress, job loss, uncertainty about the future, social isolation, a sense of chronic threat, grieving lost lives and lost opportunities.
Anxiety, depression, and suicide prevalence will likely increase especially among high risk groups including young adults, youth and underserved communities. These groups often have least access to traditional resources and support.
Prevalence of anxiety, depression and suicide among U.S. young adults and teens is increasing at alarming rates over the past decade.
The mental health burdens associated with COVID-19 promise to accelerate these trends.
Our Response to the COVID-19 Mental Health Burden
At SuperBetter, we’re working to make the world a whole lot better.
We offer a popular science backed app that improves resilience, mental health and social-emotional learning. SuperBetter is regularly found on media lists of best apps for mental health & wellbeing alongside VC-backed leaders like Calm, Headspace & Talkspace.
We are happy to be in a position to continue to make our app available 100% for free through the at least the end of 2020.
When the pandemic was announced we found ourselves in a unique position to help. We shifted our focus right away.
We started by reminding our community how published studies show that playing SuperBetter can help reduce anxiety. In turn many used social media to recommend SuperBetter to friends and followers. App downloads surged right away as people sought resources to manage Coronavirus stress and anxiety.
Next, since the pandemic is new to all of us, we crowdsourced insights from our SuperBetter Community about the new stressors and challenges they anticipated as they began to self-quarantine.
Jane was also featured at a COVID-19 Mental Health Conference hosted by the 92nd Street Y where she interviewed her equally amazing and brilliant twin sister Kelly McGonigal (their 15 minute segment starts at 2:16:30).
When the pandemic was announced, our urgent goal was to help more people navigate these challenging times. The efforts were successful. For the month of May, SuperBetter app store downloads are up 60% vs. pre-pandemic levels and global app sessions are up 42%.
We’re grateful for Allies across the U.S. and around the world that recommend SuperBetter to those they serve.
These Allies are found across media, colleges & universities, K-12 schools, medical centers, counseling centers, local governments, youth-focused non-profits, mental health non-profits, and others.
Our proactive response to the COVID-19 mental health crisis contributed to a 3-fold increase in media stores featuring SuperBetter so far this year. You can find over 50 media stories from 2020 on the SuperBetter Press Page.
Because of its credibility and science, SuperBetter is recommended by more organizations than ever. Hundreds include SuperBetter on resource pages for COVID-19, mental health, health services, self-care, student success, career services and social-emotional learning.
We acknowledged many of these Allies in a #ShoutOut campaign on the SuperBetter Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages over the past two months.
We’re All in This Together
These are unusual and challenging times. The disruption of lives during the first 100 days of the COVID-19 is hard for nearly everyone. Nobody knows how long it will continue.
The world is just starting to see the effects of the global COVID-19 mental health crisis now following on the heels of the pandemic. The crises of economic turmoil and systemic racism are compounding the problem.
These are epic challenges. The world urgently needs more well-designed, science-backed tools in the toolkit, like SuperBetter, to help individuals and communities proactively build skills, empower peer-support and complement traditional care.
The SuperBetter team is committed to doing our part.
We added a new physical distancing game to our popular app.
The new Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt creates social connection and emotional wellbeing as players stay-at-home and practice physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The new game supports the recent change by the World Health Organization to the promote the practice of ‘physical distancing’ (vs. ‘social distancing’) to emphasize the need to physically – but not socially – separate from others.
SuperBetter is a resilience-building game that helps players go for epic wins in real life.
The Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt physical distancing game is the first of two new SuperBetter Power Packs to help players boost their resilience, mental wellbeing and social-emotional skills during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The second, now in development, is a Coronavirus Game to promote emotional, mental, social and physical resilience while following World Health Organization guidance. We recently crowdsourced ideas from the SuperBetter Community to inform the activities.
A week ago SuperBetter reported that new app downloads more than doubled and global app sessions surged 40% over the prior week.
“People around the world are feeling tremendous losses of normalcy, safety, connection and economic stability,” says Keith Wakeman, SuperBetter CEO. “Adding Power Packs and keeping the SuperBetter app this year are ways we can help right away while we work on plans for even greater impact.”
The Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt is a physical distancing game that increases social connection. It sparks positive emotions like curiosity, surprise and gratitude. The 2-week game challenges players to find one new thing every day without ever leaving their home. Players share their daily finds with friends, family, the SuperBetter Community, or on social media using hashtag #SuperBetterScavengerHunt.
Find The Stay-at-Home Scavenger Hunt in the ‘Get Power Packs’ area of the SuperBetter apps (iOS, Android) or website. Game on!
Those struggling with post-concussion symptoms now have an app-based resource for support during their concussion recovery. SuperBetter is making available, at no cost, the Power Packs (i.e. daily activities) developed for the clinical trial that evaluated the impact of using SuperBetter among concussion patients with persistent symptoms. People with a concussion or mild to moderate traumatic brain injury can access these Power Packs in the SuperBetter app or website using the special code found near the end of this post.
You may have noticed the redesign over at SuperBetter.com. The previous design helped to organically grow the SuperBetter community to nearly a million people strong. Although it served us well, the design was more than 3 years old, and with so many positive advances in recent years, an update was in order.
For several years, SuperBetter made a forum available as a resource for our community. The forum was hosted on a 3rd party platform, separate from SuperBetter.com. For reasons unrelated to this post, the forum was removed in mid-2017 and replaced with the SuperBetter Official Community Group on Facebook.
It recently came to our attention that at some point while the forum was still active, an unauthorized party acquired data associated with some forum accounts. The affected information included email addresses and passwords.
We take the protection of personal information seriously. When we became aware, we took steps to determine the nature and scope of the issue. The investigation determined that only SuperBetter Forum accounts were affected. Accounts associated with the SuperBetter.com website or apps were not affected.