'We can circumvent how serious it can get': Hotel-Dieu, St. Clair College teach healthy digital habits

Members of the Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency were at St. Clair College Thursday, to inform students about treatment options for digital addiction.

'It can become a very, very seriously problem depending on how it's handled,' says counsellor

Danielle Loiselle is a problem gabmling counselor with Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare's Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency. She says education about harm reduction strategies is a way to circumvent serious gaming addiction. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Members of the Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare Centre for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency were at St. Clair College Thursday, to inform students about treatment options for digital addiction.

Diana Gabriel, a certified problem gambling counsellor at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, explained that the initiative was developed soon after Hotel-Dieu staff members, affiliated with St. Clair College, learned that the school planned on launching a dedicated esports course.

"I think it was a mutual reaching out to do some preventative care to educate the students and their families about the dangers of potential dependency, so that they could circumvent any of the dynamic negative fallout from gaming," said Gabriel. 

Danielle Loiselle, another problem gambling counsellor with Hotel-Dieu, said gaming addictions can be a "very, very serious problem depending on how it's handled."

"If we are able to educate and bring harm reduction strategies to those who are facing this problem, I believe we can help circumvent how serious it will get," Loiselle said.

Gabriel said a lack of experience dealing with "major life challenges," like grief and loss, are some of the reasons why young minds can be highly susceptible to gaming addiction.

Diana Gabriel is a problem gambling counselor at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare's Centre for Program Gambling and Digital Dependency. She says gaming addictions can be serious problems depending on how they're handled. (Windsor Morning/CBC)

"They're still learning how to develop those coping strategies and building that emotional resilience to deal with life," she said. "And because they haven't done that, they are susceptible to falling into the gaming world and using gaming to kind of anaesthetize the emotional discomfort that comes with stress."

A lack of exercise, a lack of healthy nutrition, as well as a lack of sleep are all some concerns associated with extensive gaming sessions both Gabriel and Loiselle identified.

And in addition to maintaining healthy eating and exercise habits, Gabriel said it's important for gamers to maintain non-digital connections with other people.

"When you're out connecting with people, you're developing those social skills, you're developing the emotional resilience to build the intimacy with others," she said. "That's a safeguard to any addiction."

Members of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare were at St. Clair College to inform students about video game addiction and digital dependency. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Though the school has a dedicated esports team, Gabriel said she doesn't have a problem with St. Clair College's program. 

"Human behaviour is such that anyone can develop a dependency on almost anything," she said. "What we're most concerned about is teaching people how to find that balance, just like any other sport — just like football players, basketball players."

In addition to offering information about digital dependency, Hotel-Dieu representatives offered details about the healthcare provider's 21-day screen addiction rehabilitation program.

Gabriel explained that the program is open to all Ontario residents, and teaches different strategies to cope with digital addiction.

Nathan Robert Bezaire is a student at St. Clair College. He says he's concerned about a friend who may have a gaming problem. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

"They learn all these different strategies so that they can either resume their digital use to a much modified degree to keep it safe, or to abstain completely," She said.

For the most part, students seemed receptive to Hotel-Dieu's presence at St. Clair College.

Nathan Bezaire, a student at St. Clair College, said he plans to use what he learned Thursday to attempt to connect with a friend who he feels might have a gaming problem.

"Try and put your game down, read a book or maybe go for a walk, go for a bike ride and just not play games all the time," Bezaire recommended.

With files from Tahmina Aziz and Windsor Morning


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