Grant submitted!

Quad Chart for the proposal-NOT yet funded


In lieu of a formal post, here’s the Lay Abstract and Quad Chart from the grant submission. I really hope it will get funded as a lot of people have put in a good amount of time to give their thoughts and advice on it!

If you’re in a position to help fund this or similar project, PLEASE reach out to me so we can figure out a way to work together!

The only thing I found sad/disappointing is that a huge military suicide research group was unwilling to share documentation of the measures they are collecting in an ongoing study so I could harmonize the measures I proposed to collect. What a shame. Seems inconsistent with best practices for optimizing how we spend money in public health.


STRONGER: Supporting TRoops through ONline Gaming EnviRonments

 Background: Through their military training, soldiers learn to rely on one another for strength. Tight bonds and strong friendships develop, and these are protective of service members’ mental health. However, this same self-reliance can make it difficult for service members to look for help when they need it, and problems in coping with stress or psychological challenges can lead to serious problems, such as depression or suicide.1

Social support is a vital part of suicide prevention, and just being able to talk to someone may prevent suicidal acts during times of imminent risk.2,3  Nowadays, many people spend time online as a way to keep in touch with friends or talk to others who share their interests. Video games and social media can even be good for social support and mental health.4,5 A recent study of video game play among military veterans suggests that playing video games might be a very useful way to have casual or even meaningful discussions.6 The interactions these veterans had online reminded them of the brotherhood they felt during military service –they found support in relationships with peers who understood their experiences.7

There are peer support programs already for different groups, such as service members, veterans, first responders, and people with mental health problems.8 These help their users by providing social support, inspiring trust and confidentiality, and being easy to access.8,9 Programs for service members use phone counseling or “buddy checks” to encourage service members to talk and seek help. How well these work in different active duty military settings is not clear.8

Some veteran-run organizations already provide informal peer support through video games or video game communities.10,11 In partnership with these organizations and other military stakeholders, this project will design an online peer support intervention, train peer support providers, and test the intervention in a scientific study. The online intervention will be usable anytime, anywhere by service members (and ultimately their families and the public at large) to improve psychological health.

Objectives: The objective of this study is to develop a new peer support intervention that is based on a video game social media and communication platform. The intervention will be appealing, private and simple for service members to use. We will do a scientific study to test how well the intervention works in making service members feel supported and encouraging them to look for psychological help when they need it as well as decreasing negative feelings like hopelessness and depression.

Benefit to the public: This project will develop a new type of online peer support intervention that can be accessed anywhere, anytime. The intervention will take advantage of the popularity of casual and common interactions to bring people together into a new type of real-time supportive environment that can promote psychological health.



  1. Tanielian T, Jaycox LH, Adamson DM, et al. Invisible Wounds of War. Published 2008. Accessed December 22, 2015.
  2. Shand FL, Proudfoot J, Player MJ, et al. What might interrupt men’s suicide? Results from an online survey of men. BMJ Open. 2015;5(10):e008172. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008172
  3. Player MJ, Proudfoot J, Fogarty A, et al. What Interrupts Suicide Attempts in Men: A Qualitative Study. PloS One. 2015;10(6):e0128180. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0128180
  4. Kowert R, Quandt T. The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games. New York: Routledge; 2015.
  5. Reinecke L, Eden A. Media use and recreation: Media-induced recovery as a link between media exposure and well-being. In: Reinecke L, Oliver MB, Reinecke L (Ed), Oliver MB (Ed), eds. The Routledge Handbook of Media Use and Well-Being: International Perspectives on Theory and Research on Positive Media Effects. New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group; 2017:106-117.
  6. Colder Carras M, Kalbarczyk A, Wells K, et al. Connection, meaning, and distraction: A qualitative study of video game play and mental health recovery in veterans treated for mental and/or behavioral health problems. Unpubl Manuscr. 2017.
  7. Colder Carras M, Kalbarczyk A, Wells K, Banks J, Kowert R, Latkin C. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”: A qualitative study of video game use by veterans with mental and behavioral health problems. Poster presented at the: International Society for Research on Internet Interventions; October 12, 2017; Berlin, Germany.
  8. Money N, Moore M, Brown D, et al. Best Practices Identified for Peer Support Programs. Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury; 2011.
  9. Reznicek M, Chaffee B, Polom M. BeThere peer support and center of excellent for advocacy, education and outreach. Presented at the: DoD/VA Suicide Prevention Conference; August 2, 2017; Denver, Colorado.
  10. Homepage – Accessed December 27, 2015.
  11. (5) Digital Veterans LLC – Home. Accessed December 28, 2017.


NOTE:  This information relates to a grant proposal submitted to the US Department of Defense. It is not a project supported by the Department of Defense and it does not reflect the views of the US Government.

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