Mental health support at Comic-Con

5 JUNE 2015

"The idea of 'Nobody would miss me if I'm gone' is a pervasive one in our community."

Every year you'll see a smattering of self-care tips shared across the blogosphere right before San Diego Comic-Con. From what shoes to wear to avoiding the Con flu, everyone's full of advice on getting through what admittedly is an arduous 4-5 days. I myself am brimming with guidance. But there's one topic not too many of us talk about and that's protecting our mental health at Comic-Con.

Phoenix Comicon had an interesting panel on navigating the Con for attendees who are bipolar, borderline, struggling with depression or anxiety disorders or dealing with any other challenge. I thought it was a great idea. Consider how difficult the Con can be for anyone in terms of:
  • Sharing a room with multiple people, one of whom might be loud, messy, inconsiderate, etc.
  • Being surrounded by massive crowds in every direction
  • Having to sit or stand in one spot for hours at a time
  • The crushing disappointment of missing the celebrity or collectible that was your #1 priority
  • Being tired from travel and out of sorts from too much heavy restaurant food
  • Getting sore and grumpy from walking more than you anticipated
  • The bombastic noise and dazzle of the Exhibit Hall and the vendors and protestors shouting outside

Comic-Con can fray anyone's nerves. Now add in a mental illness or other struggle and it's easy to see why any Con - exciting and fulfilling though it might be - can act as one giant stressor. Or simply increase a sense of emotional isolation.

Some Cons like Emerald City have offered quiet rooms to help attendees cope with panic attacks or mental overload; now we know SDCC could have some of the same thanks to IGN and Take This, a nonprofit group that addresses mental health issues in the gaming community. They will host AFK rooms at various Cons to give people a break from the sensory storm that is your typical Comic-Con and help them manage their stress levels.

This is good news for anyone who tends to get overwhelmed at Cons. Whether you get anxious in crowds, are sensitive to light and noise, or have an illness you're managing, a quiet room can be a welcome haven. If you've never been to a major Con before, I don't want to imply that they're pure screaming chaos; the amount of stimulation depends on where you are. Some attendees (like me) actually thrive on the crowds and energy. But having the option to duck out of it for a bit is a safety net for attendees who want some control over their environment.

As a result of their partnership with IGN, Take This is also making a documentary about mental illness in the gaming community, which will be out later this year. "The idea of 'Nobody would miss me if I'm gone' is a pervasive one in our community," the trailer says; a reminder for all of us that while attendees bring different issues and needs to the Con, we are one community - and ideally we can offer the right resources to ensure every attendee feels safe and supported.

ETA: Take This will be participating in SDCC in some way, but not necessarily with an AFK room. Stay tuned.


  1. The best "quiet room" we found at SDCC last year was the theater at the Omni where they were showing video replays of previous panels. It was dark, quiet, and plenty of room on comfy seats.