In 2022, it would be hard to dispute the popularity of streaming platforms such as Twitch. Still, the numbers showing just how popular Twitch and streaming are can be surprising. As reported by TwitchTracker, upwards of 2.5 million people could be on the platform at any moment, consuming more than 2.2 million hours of content that are streamed daily, for a total daily watch time of 62.4 million hours.

Twitch thrives thanks to a young audience — GlobalWebIndex reported that 16- to 24-year-olds had a 41% share in 2019 — so it’s no wonder the content revolves around topics most popular among the younger crowd. Often enough, it’s about gaming and fandoms.

The rise of the variety streamer and the Just Chatting stream category has opened the door for other conversations on the platform, including those about mental health.

“When I started streaming and getting a consistent number of viewers, I started noticing people who would say in my chat how they’re having a bad day and thank me for streaming,” says Léa Martinez, a young streamer who is also an avid TikTok content creator. “I hadn’t seen mental-health-related content on Twitch before, so I decided to start doing mental health streams.”

Martinez is no stranger to using her platform to help others or to raise funds in the analog world. Doing fundraising streams for charities, for example, has become a way for her to mark her big milestones on the platform. When she hit 50,000 followers, she and her community raised funds for Starlight, a charity that focuses on delivering happiness to seriously ill kids and their families. When she reached 100,000 followers, she did the same for the Bit-by-Bit Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to provide video game consoles, games, hardware, and disabled-friendly controllers to Children’s Hospitals.

The mental health streams have a casual tone to them. “I would do streams, and I’d call them ‘Self-Love Sunday,’ or ‘Mental Health Monday,’” Léa Martinez says. “I’d go live for two hours, and I’d just talk to my chat. I’d explain the struggles I’ve been through, and I’d listen to their struggles the best I could. And sometimes that just means a lot to people.”

Lea Martinez

Every little bit helps, especially when dealing with something as difficult as mental health issues in adolescents. According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that around 14% of 10- to 19-year-olds experience mental health conditions, with anxiety disorders being the most prevalent in the age group. Even though the stigma has been somewhat lifted from talking about mental health, the lack of access to proper care and treatment often leads to consequences that extend into adulthood.

For her part, Léa Martinez believes that it’s important to help others and to do it publicly. “When you share your struggles publicly, it might leave you a bit vulnerable, but it ultimately does better than harm, as you can see how people relate to you,” she explains. “So, if someone came into my chat and said they’re very anxious about a test because they need to do well to pass the class, I’d say that anxiety is totally normal and tell them what I did to relieve my nerves before taking tests when I was in school.”

Martinez shares other problems that trouble people of her age, too. Social media fatigue was one of them, causing her to take a few weeks away from all the platforms for her mental well-being. While that might be especially hard for someone whose livelihood is tied to these very platforms, the community she’s grown online, with her honest approach and quality content, has been more than welcoming. “I feel I have an army in my corner when it comes to my Twitch community,” she says. “They are so supportive, and they know me so well. I sometimes end up cry-laughing because of my followers and supporters. They just know me and how to make me laugh.”

Léa Martinez likes to put a positive spin on her mental health streams, too. While there are more than enough reasons for around-the-clock gloom and doom, she believes that it’s important to occasionally remind ourselves of the good in our lives. “I’d be like, alright, chat — what’s something you did that made you proud of yourself? What’s an accomplishment, what’s a goal for you,” she says. “Because people lose their way sometimes, and they just need a reminder. I know that I need a reminder sometimes.”

What it comes down to, in the end, is community. This platform-enabled crowdsourcing of emotional support might be just the way everyone can chip in with a kind and understanding word, a shared experience, or a solution to someone’s problem. For her part, Léa Martinez is dedicated to keeping that space safe and open. “Ultimately, we all need someone to tell us, ‘You’ve got this,’” says Léa Martinez. “And having someone listen to you and having you feel heard is sometimes all it takes to make you feel better.”

Written in partnership with Luke Lintz

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