England’s National Health Service (NHS) is opening the country’s first clinic designed to treat children and young adults aged from 13 to 25 who are suffering from video game addiction. Clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, therapists and psychiatrists will be working with the patients to help tackle their addiction. The service, part of the National Centre for Behavioural Addictions in London, will be hosted by the Central and North West London mental health trust and be located alongside the National Problem Gambling Clinic.
The World Health Organization officially recognized gaming disorder as a disease earlier this year. The condition is classified as an addictive behavior that causes “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” Games industry bodies have pushed back against the classification, saying that the organization doesn’t have enough evidence to justify it.
Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ spokeswoman on behavioral addictions, has been named the director of the NHS’s new Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorder. She says, “Gaming disorder is not a mental illness to be taken lightly.” People can now be referred to the clinic, while treatment will begin next month. In addition to in-person treatment in London, patients will also be able to have consultations online over Skype.
Countries worldwide are trying to cope with an explosion in gaming and internet addiction. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England said in a statement, “This new service is a response to an emerging problem, part of the increasing pressures that children and young people are exposed to these days.”
England is not the only country taking action. In China, the number of hours children can spend playing popular games has been restricted by technology firm Tencent. In South Korea, children under 16 have been banned from using online games between midnight and 6am. In Canada, a legal firm is trying to sue Epic Games over the alleged risk of addiction to young people playing Fortnite.