Community Spotlight: Rise Above the Disorder (RAD)
“Everyone deserves mental health care. Heroes like you make it possible.” —RAD
Today’s Community Spotlight celebrates someone very close to our hearts at Raider.IO: Jason Docton, the founder and CEO of Rise Above the Disorder (RAD). RAD is a non-profit organization that provides mental health support for all by covering the financial burden of care. The uniqueness of this charity stems from the fact that it all started as a World of Warcraft (WoW) guild named Anxiety Gaming. Years later, RAD has helped over 39,000 people across 134 countries obtain care that would otherwise be inaccessible to them. Additionally, RAD has acted as liaisons to the World Health Organization and consultants to the United Nations…all whilst being true gamers at their core.
Jason’s inspirational journey and tenacity have led him to become a role model for the gaming industry at large. As someone who battled crippling anxiety and mental health conditions of his own for years, Jason grew to transform his mindset through his charity work with RAD. His story of perseverance in turning Anxiety Gaming into a successful non-profit organization truly touches the heart.
Recently, RAD has worked alongside WoW guilds to raise funds and awareness for mental health. The Race to World First (RWF) of Sanctum of Domination saw the first partnership between RAD and the top two guilds in the world: Echo and Liquid (formerly Complexity-Limit). On January 30th of this year, Echo and Limit joined forces again to host a special Raid Royale event, which raised over $66,000 to the cause. With Sepulcher of the First Ones just days away, more opportunities to support this incredible charity will present themselves soon.
RAD demonstrates that the WoW community can be the heroes that others need. If our interview with Jason inspires you as much as it did to us, please feel free to head over to YouAreRad.org where you can donate or volunteer to the cause yourself.
Table of Contents
“Every day, I reflect on just how wild it is that a WoW guild could become an international non-profit that has helped over 39,000 people across 134 countries. This community really can do anything.”
Q-1: Let’s start at the very beginning. For those who may not be familiar with RAD, can you please give us a little background and history as to how the organization came about? What is your own backstory?
Jason: Rise Above The Disorder, RAD, is a non-profit that helps people all over the world access mental health care. We both find people incredible therapists, and for those in need, cover the cost of every session. I originally founded RAD as Anxiety Gaming, a World of Warcraft guild on a quest to help our community.
Funnily enough, our guild spent most of Mists of Pandaria boosting people and using the money made to cover the cost of therapy sessions 😀. At the time, I was struggling a lot with my mental health and just wanted to help others. Living from disability check to disability check and not being able to leave my home, World of Warcraft seemed like the only world that I really existed in.
Q-2: Currently, how large is the team at RAD and what sort of reach do you have internationally?
Jason: RAD is at just over 20 staff members now! It still blows my mind to think about how much we’ve grown since founding our guild in 2013. To date, we’ve now worked in 134 countries.
Q-3: How did you come to partner with WoW guilds such as Liquid (formerly Limit) and Echo for the Race to World First? Are more prospective partnerships down the line?
Jason: When Echo first formed, they made it a point to focus on supporting the WoW community and engaging in charity. Thankfully, they found us while looking into causes and reached out to explore supporting us 😀. Echo has been so incredible to work with and their passion for the community has been so inspiring. Liquid has been wonderful to work with, too. They have done so much to help make the RWF events a must watch.
“No matter how chaotic or tough life got, WoW was always a place I could escape to…I can genuinely say that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the role WoW played in my life.”
Q-4: What was it about World of Warcraft and it’s community that inspired the charity you run today?
Jason: For me, and I imagine so many others, World of Warcraft has always been home. Growing up, I didn’t always have a stable place to live. I’d live with different families and got shuffled around a lot. For one of the families I lived with, their son got access to World of Warcraft while it was still in testing. I’d spend hours watching him run around Stranglethorn Vale with his Hunter and a tiger he tamed there.
When I finally had a bit more stability in life, I got a copy of World of Warcraft and pretty much never stopped playing. No matter how chaotic or tough life got, WoW was always a place I could escape to. I realize now how unhealthy that can become, but I can genuinely say that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the role WoW played in my life.
When it came to the charity side, WoW was the only world I existed in at the time. It’s where I set out to help others. The guild Anxiety Gaming grew out of people wanting to join this quest.
Q-5: Do you feel the WoW community was always very receptive to your campaigns/ideas as they first formed? How receptive has the WoW community been as RAD has developed?
Jason: To be honest, I don’t think much of the community even knew RAD existed until the first RWF event. When we first formed, platforms like Justin.TV, later Twitch.TV, were still really small. Those that did hear of us often loved our mission.
“The real challenges have come from the increasing need for mental health care and our team trying our best to meet that need.”
Q-6: Specifically within the COVID era, the topic of mental health has become increasingly more prominent over the last few years. What are the challenges of running a modern-day nonprofit charity such as RAD?
Jason: You know, it’s been such an interesting thing for me. The first few years of our cause existed while I was unable to leave home, and our guild members were all over the world. I think it was a lot more challenging trying to run RAD pre-covid because we just assumed we had to do the traditional non-profit thing of having an in-person office, 9 AM - 5 PM hours, and in-person fundraising.
Our focus on fundraising within the gaming community, working with creators to host charity streams, and doing digital events is where we thrive. The real challenges have come from the increasing need for mental health care and our team trying our best to meet that need. We can see a huge number of people apply to our programs, but keeping up with the funding required to help everyone has been a challenge.
“The first person to come to the mic looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘Years ago, you helped me find a therapist and break out of my depression. When I heard you were coming to speak at PAX, I booked a flight from Australia to thank you for changing my life.’”
Q-7: After all these years of running RAD, what has been your proudest achievement? Was there a pivotal moment or milestone that you can speak to?
Jason: There have been so many over the years — I’m truly fortunate to do this work. One that comes to mind is a moment at PAX West. At the time, I was fairly certain that Anxiety Gaming was over. We’d done some fundraising and helped a ton of people, but the momentum died down. Still unable to leave home, it seemed like my own struggle with mental health issues stood in the way of our cause growing.
We’d applied to speak at PAX West on a whim, “knowing” we’d never get accepted, and just as I was getting ready to close the non-profit, a speaker dropped out of PAX last minute and I was invited to speak. This was it. Face my crippling anxiety headon and possibly save the cause, or stay home and let Anxiety Gaming fall. I was terrified.
I gathered what little money I had, booked a side-of-the-road motel in Seattle, and got a ticket to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle. Panic attack after panic attack, I managed to get myself to the event. I remember walking into the theater and seeing we got the biggest room there…And there was no one in line to see Anxiety Gaming speak. I completely broke, ran to the bathroom, and tried desperately to talk myself down. When I have panic attacks, I often feel like I’m dying and struggle to convince myself otherwise. I was looking in the mirror, 911 pre-dialed on my phone, debating on calling or not.
After a bit of back and forth in my mind, I put my head down and walked into the theater prepared to speak to an empty room. Just as I sat down, one of our volunteers was jumping up and down, shouting at me to see if I saw the line outside. Still in a panic, I snapped at them that it was just the line to enter the convention. I was wrong. The theater quickly filled with people. It was so packed that the walls were lined with attendees standing to hear from us. To this day, I can’t remember anything I said — just powering through a slide about Anxiety Gaming while trying not to have another panic attack.
What I do remember, and to finally answer your actual question, was when we reached the Q&A part of the talk. The first person to come to the mic looked me right in the eyes and said, “Years ago, you helped me find a therapist and break out of my depression. When I heard you were coming to speak at PAX, I booked a flight from Australia to thank you for changing my life.” It was the moment I first realized the gravity of the work we were doing at Anxiety Gaming, and the beginning of overcoming my anxiety disorder.
“When we shape our mind and environment around wellness, we no longer avoid struggling, but pursue healing. The change in mindset makes a massive difference.”
Q-8: Through personal experiences and talking with many others over nearly 15 years of World of Warcraft, I’ve found that mental health challenges often go hand-in-hand with losing yourself in a digital world such as Azeroth. What are some tips, resources, or avenues you have for those who are struggling with their mental health who may not know where to begin?
Jason: For me, the best place to begin is acknowledging my mental health and giving myself permission to accept that I struggled with an anxiety disorder — to recognize that many of my thoughts and feelings came from a place influenced by my anxiety disorder and depression. This didn’t make my feelings any less valid, but did make them more approachable. Writing this all out can be extremely helpful. Further, write out what you want or would like to do once you’re feeling better. I know we do a lot of this stuff mentally, but our brain does so much better to make all of this a reality when we put it on “paper”.
When I can look at my thoughts in writing, it becomes a lot easier to see what is based in anxiety or depression and what isn’t. I can even start to map out how I may get to what I want, such as sleeping better and seeing a therapist so that I can ultimately travel to some place I’ve always dreamed of. No matter how much my anxiety would lead me to doubt or question what to do, I could return to this map and see the steps forward. Increasingly, healing becomes more accessible.
If you can, also try including friends or family members in this process. Let them know what you’re feeling and what goals you have once you’re feeling well. See if they’ll check in with you or help with any of the steps needed towards your goal. It’s all part of shaping our mind to revolve around wellness. When we’re struggling, we often focus on avoiding struggling even harder. When we shape our mind and environment around wellness, we no longer avoid struggling, but pursue healing. The change in mindset makes a massive difference.
Q-9: If someone we game with is struggling with their mental health, what can we do to support them? What are some ways that we can become better allies?
Jason: I know this sounds silly, but I love to ask if they want Heals, DPS, or a Tank. Do they need someone to listen, provide advice, or get involved? When you hear about someone struggling, it can be tempting to just jump in there and help in some way. Getting the person's consent and helping them in the way they need is what I find to be the best approach. Think about it for a moment. If someone just wants to vent for a bit, but the other person jumps in and gets involved, oof. At the same time, if someone is hoping you’ll give advice but you simply listen to them vent, it can feel pretty underwhelming.
It’s worth asking what role they’re looking for. It may also be the case that they simply want to solo-quest for the time, but I’m certain that just knowing they could party up if needed is powerful.
Q-10: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Jason: Thank you for putting this together, Grant. I appreciate you, Raider.IO, Echo, Liquid, and the whole WoW community coming together to make mental health care more accessible. Every day, I reflect on just how wild it is that a WoW guild could become an international non-profit that has helped over 39,000 people across 134 countries. This community really can do anything.
How To Support RAD
If you or anyone you know is experiencing mental health issues and seeking help, please visit RAD for an abundance of mental health resources and support.
If you wish to donate to RAD and help others start therapy, please click here.
- Visit RAD’s Official Website
- Support RAD
- Volunteer for RAD
- Follow RAD on Twitter
- Follow RAD on Twitch
- Follow RAD on Instagram
- Join RAD on Discord
About the Authors
Grant has been a Feral Druid for the last 14 years and refuses to believe it isn't meta. He's also an esports caster who has traveled the world commentating for StarCraft II. Currently, he works predominantly in the MMO scene on the Race to World First (RWF) and other PvE events. Experienced at raiding at a world-first level himself, he is now content dying a lot with his friends at a slightly lower level. When he grows up, he wants to be a Ninja Turtle.
VitaminP (VP) is the Lead Editor & Assistant Producer of Raider.IO and has worked for the organization since the formation of the News Section in November 2018. Although VP is currently focused on pursuing her Masters of Business Administration, she specializes in tanking classes and has loved doing competitive Mythic+ on and off since early Legion.