This week, a new video game was launched that aims to give realistic insight into what it might be like to experience psychosis. In Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, the heroine Senua tackles quests and landscapes familiar to many video games, but there is a difference: the monsters of the game are monsters of the mind.
The company behind the game is Ninja Theory. Along with Tameem Antoniades, the creative director, they worked with individuals with experience of psychosis and mental health difficulties to create something that accurately depicts what it is like to struggle with complex mental health difficulties. The game has received the support of the Wellcome Collection, who believe Hellblade can contribute towards reducing stigma.
We spoke to one of the contributors on the game, Jenny Elson. Here is her story:
I don't label my experiences as psychosis, but as seeing and hearing things that others don’t. The diagnosis of psychosis does not reflect the experiences I have had and can be used in a stigmatising way.
The experiences I have of seeing or hearing things that others don’t can vary in degree and very dependent on the level of stress I am under. When I was acutely unwell I would see bodies hanging from the ceiling, trees, curtain poles etc. and would sometimes try and rescue those people. I also experience clear “flashback” images which again occur when I am highly stressed. These flashbacks are of traumatic events in my past.
The voices I hear are both external and internal. I am never without at least one voice and often with two competing voices. However these two do not frighten or concern me, I find them almost entertaining. There are several more menacing voices that I hear internally who I refer to as the 'commenter' and the 'accuser' who are both negative and unwanted. During periods of high anxiety the internal voices will switch to external voices, which is more distressing. However with the voices I hear externally I try not to interact with them as this fuels them.
Mental health affects me in different ways each day and is variable on its impact on my day. On a good day I would have very little in the way of “symptoms” and would fulfill my everyday tasks with no problems. Yet on another day I can be riddled with anxiety and fear making the simplest task like wading through treacle. I often find my attention is pulled between the voices, so I tend to become tired quickly and have to work hard to concentrate.
I became involved in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice through the Recovery College, and having experiences of seeing and hearing things others don’t seem to fit what the game developers wanted to explore. In conveying my experiences of seeing and hearing things others don’t , I felt it was important that the experiences where not “ stereotyped” I think for me on a personal level understanding that each person may see and hear things others don’t in a completely unique way. That the experience is not always negative. Sometimes the voices can bring inspiration and insight into aspects of my life.