News / Toronto

Interactive game shows what it's like to visit psychiatric ward

Creator Alana Zablocki drew from personal experiences of visiting mental-health emergency room to create Inpatient Game.

Alana Zablocki has developed an online game to help people navigate the complicated mental-health emergency care system.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Alana Zablocki has developed an online game to help people navigate the complicated mental-health emergency care system.

No one can truly understand what goes on in a mental-health emergency room unless they've been there.

But a new online interactive game is bridging that gap, giving anyone a glimpse of the complex process of visiting a psychiatric ward.

Inpatient Game is the brainchild of Alana Zablocki, a 28-year-old transgender woman in Toronto who has been in and out of the hospital for emergency health care over the past three years. She tried to relay her experiences to people close to her, but quickly realized it's a tough sell.

"People don't really understand what it's like talking to a doctor who will decide whether or not to admit you," she said, noting there have been instances where she's had to wait for hours before getting help, even when she had suicidal thoughts.

"I want people to empathize with patients. Especially mental-health workers, I want them to play the game and understand how their own behaviours may affect patients."

The interactive game takes the player on a 72-hour journey through the eyes of a 32-year-old woman who is suicidal. After checking in at a hospital, the player goes through a complex process that simulates the reality of the emergency room operations. Depending on the options picked, the player may either get a sleeping pill from a nurse or go through a psychiatric assessment.

Zablocki, who is also a computer programmer, said creating the interactive game was a way of letting people know that it's "not fun" being in an emergency room for mental-health care. She's currently working on a book based on the characters of the game.

Her hope is for the community to focus more on preventative measures, and reduce the reliance on emergency mental-health care.

"People who have the means to afford therapy are getting the help they need while the rest of us in poverty are suffering," she said. "Emergency hospitalization should be the absolute last resort, not the only resort for a lot of people."

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