Investigating Mental Illness with SOMA

Updated: Jan 5


Each academic year I begin with taking inventory on what works and doesn't work for my students. They tell me what they struggle with in school, but they also share things they enjoy and how they learn best. Inevitably, each year the students indicate that they enjoy video games. Therefore, I correlate video games I've played and recorded into lesson plans for my students.


Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.


Honestly, I cannot think of any other time in my teaching career where erasing the stigma of mental illness, while gaining a deeper understanding has been more pertinent. In fact, in 2017, there were 47,173 recorded suicides, up from 42,773 in 2014, according to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014 (https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Suicide_in_the_United_States).


Since my students love video games (as I do), I take great pride in creating learning experiences in correlation with games I play. This creation was inspired by the video game, SOMA, by Frictional Games. While the game is actually about Artificial Intelligence and what constitutes a life, I happened to feel the game's main character, Simon, suffered from schizophrenia. This was the basis of the learning experience.


In all, there were 23 video game clips recorded during my playthrough and uploaded to my YouTube channel. Each video had a distinct activity to look deeper into the story's narrative content.


Step 1: Watch Clip



Step 2: Complete Activity

The process shown above is repeated for each of the game's 23 clips. Honestly, my favorite part of the entire experience is listening to my students and the phenomenal ideas they bring to the table regarding the story's premise.


Below are a couple video clips where my students discuss and share ideas on how the video game, SOMA, and its key character, Simon, connect with the mental illness, schizophrenia.

Below is a time lapse one of my students made to culminate the hard work they've done throughout this entire experience. As always, very proud of my student's efforts.

To read more on this concept, check out Chapter 25: It's All About the View, in my book, Teach4Endurance: Surviving the Swim, Bike, and Run in Today's Classroom.

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