VoidVR, an independent virtual reality (VR) development studio, has announced the launch of I’m Fine, a new educational project aimed at suicide awareness.
The project, which will be available for free on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive from July, is aimed at being ‘used as a means of experiencing what sufferers of suicidal thoughts go through in their darkest hours… [to] better understand [them].’
The VR experience, as explained by the itch.io page for I’m Fine, consists of two stages. The first stage will see the user immersed on the ledge of a bridge ‘narrated by suicidal thoughts’, while the second stage, described as the ‘facts section of the experience’, is ‘where [the user] will be immersed in the truth regarding suicide worldwide.’
The project has been masterminded by VoidVR founder Stephen Newman. Newman admits he had previously been battling depression – thankfully now under control – and this, alongside wanting to change the attitudes more generally around the topic, were his inspiration.
“I personally don’t feel enough is being done with regards to tackling depression and suicide, not just in the UK but worldwide,” Newman told VR 360 in an email. “I feel that using VR and putting people in the shoes of a sufferer of these types of conditions may shed some light on the issues.”
As a VR developer by trade – Newman is currently in the latter stages of completing an undergraduate course in games design at the University of Gloucestershire – the medium felt a natural fit for I’m Fine. “VR offers a level of immersion that you cannot achieve with traditional platforms,” said Newman. “This is pivotal to the message and information that I’m Fine is trying to convey.
“Using VR, we go from showing information to experiencing it, which I feel is a beautiful thing and it’s that transition which allows us to better understand a topic,” Newman added.
The project, which warns users straight off the bat that it ‘has no entertainment value whatsoever’, comes with various extras, including a list of suicide prevention hotlines as well as an open letter penned by Newman to those who either have been or are suffering from suicidal and depressive thoughts. The product is free, however donations to ‘various charities worldwide’ will be turned on.
The launch of I’m Fine appears particularly prescient given recent coverage in both the US and the UK. In the US it was confirmed over the past week that a survivor of the Parkland school massacre had died by suicide, as well as the father of a victim of the Sandy Hook massacre, while in the UK coverage has focused on ensuring proper after-show care from reality TV after it was confirmed a second Love Island contestant had taken their own lives in the space of a year.
Newman hopes that his project aims to help raise awareness and understanding above all else. “The purpose of I’m Fine is to spread awareness,” he said. “I hope that it finds people who do not understand the effects of suicidal thoughts and depression all that well and that they can better understand the topics after they have gone through the experience. I hope that those same people become aware of the signs and thus be able to realise when someone may be hurting before it is too late.
“I also hope that the project finds people who have in the past or currently do experience these thoughts and feelings so they can see that they are not alone and that they can hopefully change their path,” Newman added.
You can find out more about I’m Fine here.
Most people who are thinking of taking their own life have shown warning signs beforehand. These can include becoming depressed, showing sudden changes in behaviour, talking about wanting to die and feelings of hopelessness. These feelings do improve and can be treated.
In the UK if you are concerned about someone, or need help yourself, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123.