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Can a biofeedback game save a life?

Can a biofeedback game save a life? A student from suicide?

“You saved my life, today” was the response on the form at the University Student help center.

What did you think of your experience (of the biofeedback program) was the question.

There were countless other comments such as —
• ‘less stress’,
• ‘calming influence’,
• ‘so helpful’, ‘lots of fun’,
• ‘worth my time’, etc.,
• I’m better prepared to take exams.

but that ‘you saved my life, today’, screamed out to me, viscerally affecting my bodily functions in a single moment.

It took me back to my college days. I was stressed a lot. BUT, that’s not the real story.

The real story, the full story has 3 parts.

Part 1
One summer Monday morning my gruff, seemingly unfeeling Technical Writing Professor spent the 1st half of class talking about one of his favorite students —

a bright, attractive, outgoing, all everything girl —

who had jumped off the top of the football stadium that Saturday night.

There’s not many 8 am classes I remember. That is probably the only one.

I can still see that tenured, venerable 50+ yr old professor, speaking in a different voice that morning:

‘No one would think she was stressed or depressed; she was everything; why would she commit suicide?’, he said. He was not well. He implored us to not allow college stresses to overwhelm us. Did he suggest counseling as an option? If he did, my ears rejected the idea.

What about me? Who else – someone you know? Could it be your daughter in trouble, right now?  A niece, a roommate, a friend?

I was almost that ‘has it all’ student. My college grades weren’t great — because of how I handled college life. Stress.

In high school I was the straight A, valedictorian, senior class president, best athlete, etc — yet stress was omnipresent, and at times overpowering in my college days, especially during the intense exam weeks.

I never sought help. Ego? Stigma? Was it the same for ‘her’, my stadium friend?

Part 2

You see, the 2nd part of this connection is that the football stadium was my friend, my oasis at night that summer. I ran those same steps for exercise – a late night, post-studying stress release as I lived right behind the stadium. Did I run those exact same steps she climbed to her final release – yes; that same night?

I was always alone: huffing, puffing & heart pounding like it would explode out of my back.

What if I was there on that Saturday night and saw someone else climbing those high steps to the top of the stadium? How was her heart? Her breathing? What 1 thing………was she thinking? Alone?

The campus police began to chase me out of my nightly running routine. The stadium ‘was watched’ now.

Finally, I told them, “I’m running to the top of this stadium tonight, it’s what I do, you can try to catch me if you want, but you can’t. If I wanted to jump, it would already be too late, so just let me be.”  They left me alone for the rest of the summer.

‘It would already be too late, so just let me be.” It’s up to us, ALONE, the individual. BUT — how do we reach those on the edge?

How can help be more approachable? Not ‘therapy’ – but just an easy step towards a new way. Be an easy CHOICE — for those who can run too fast to catch, whom others don’t see — until it is too late?

What if a resource was available that wasn’t stigmatized?

was not something that my stadium friend found personally incapable of using?

wasn’t fighting her ego — nor mine, which would allow help to arrive in time, before she went to the top of those steps?

Perhaps, a simple game? Not counseling or therapy, but a game for focus, relaxation & test taking?

What if I got feedback about my stress and relaxation – like a mirror into my emotions, allowing us to automatically feel better and in control?

What if there was a game with a score that showed me how anxiety can be turned into focus? Where I can relax in a few minutes with breath control?

There is now. It’s called biofeedback gaming.

What is this stuff, biofeedback? This ‘Alive Program’? Can it truly help keep a student Alive?

The Alive Biofeedback program is a series of soothing environments and games which allow you to see the feedback of your anxiety or focus on a screen. Mostly, it is controlled by an on-screen breathing pacer, or the game imagery as it changes based on how you use your breathing, heart rate and thoughts to create a smoothness of mind/body interaction.

What if I had an easy access self-help kiosk station to use for myself? A relaxation and focus station to use?

— maybe introduced in a psychology class, or by an English professor, or by a sorority sister or by a random student practicing breathing exercises before a Physics exam —

— would this have allowed me to find the de-stressing I needed, and perhaps allowed my stadium friend to get the introduction to counseling help she so obviously needed?

Would I have gone to a student center or university counseling if there was a biofeedback system which promised to help me focus, learn to relax, de-stress, practice breathing and improve my test taking?

Yes, probably. Focus, games, relax, test improvement = Yes.

Would my stadium friend, the beautiful, A student, the lost soul have learned there was help in a game?

Also, yes, likely.

AND, AT the SAME TIME, she/I would have been interacting with counselors to receive good advice, guidance and let out some of our fears and frustrations. The ‘other help’ would have arrived, too.

I had too much ego, too much social stigma fears, too much self b.s. to ever ‘seek help’, seek ‘counseling’ for stress or whatever you might call it.

Counseling, therapy, admitting weakness, help for stress = No. Not then. Not me. Not her. Not countless others.

We all need easy to use options — ones which our stubborn sub-conscious will allow into our own minds.

Part 3

I was a Virginia Tech Engineering student.

I also sat in those same classrooms countless days where that ‘other student’ 20 years later would do the unspeakable to innocent people because he was suffering and thinking in some way that no one knew.

32 needlessly shot dead + 1 lost soul we want to hate.

The depressed, stressed individual wants to be left alone.

New methods, new perspectives, new processes must be put forth.

“You saved my life, today” was the response on the form at the University Student help center.

What did you think of your experience (of the biofeedback program) was the question.

Maybe, just maybe, it would have “changed my life”, changed my direction, and saved 1 stadium friend I wish I knew, and 33 others a spring day in 2007.

What if the life that was saved, wasn’t just a random comment on a form. What if it wasn’t just 1?

What if helping one solitary stranger saves 32 vibrant, innocent lives of sisters, grandsons, neighbors, buddies?

Find your solution, whatever it might be. Maybe it’s just a game that makes the difference.

Thank you (OSU) University Student Center, thank you — student on the questionnaire.

I’m spreading the word about 1 solution today.

Here is the question many ask – ask it of yourself and your school. Take a step, not up, not to ‘that top’, but in the right direction.

How does Biofeedback work? It is a game-like environment which can be used alone, or guided, in a self-help manner.

How would it serve the students?

Less stress and better tests — is the easy answer.  Saving a life, 32 lives could be the real answer.

Would it be easy to access in the Student Center? Absolutely. No appointments or counselors required.

Take the step, the next best step so others won’t have to kneel.

Virginia Tech Honoring Survivors Memorial

Virginia Tech Honoring Survivors Memorial


Ironically, until this ‘umpteenth reading of this draft from months ago’ and the posting of the image below, I never connected that the biofeedback software is called Alive.

I’m donating one to the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech.

Alive. Alive is the name of the biofeedback program I use, promote and sell — thousands of days used, hundreds of clients and customers. Why did this not click until just now?

Alive — dumbfounded by the wall hiding the connection.

The name finally resonates: the most beneficial of the best of a technology-based biofeedback’s measures of our physical and emotional capacities is that it makes the invisible into a visible quantified picture.

We can see; we become more aware; we can put emotional feelings into actions on a screen such that seeing is believing — we better understand, therefore, we now have a sense of self-control. However, as it does now for me, awareness of a hidden concept brings the feelings of that below conscious darkness; fortunately, the revelation also releases the past such that a blossoming enlightenment is present — at this very moment for the personal, non-business, non-engineer, non-writer putting words to page, to screen in a free flow, let the world see state of mind.

Living in the present with acceptance and growing awareness is part of being Alive; now the circle is complete. The best name for a biofeedback program is truly Alive.

Here’s the picture from the Oklahoma State Reboot Student Services Center.

Oklahoma State student using the Alive Biofeedback program in the Reboot Student Center.

A personal thank you goes out to Joni for sharing the insightful responses from the students at the Reboot Center.

The numbers and the comments in the survey brought out a new enlightenment for me. I’m wrought by the latest college surveys in terms of the alarming rates of anxiety, depression and suicide attempts of college students.

I’m thankful and encouraged by the reported increase in well-being by students using mindfulness and biofeedback programs. They are effective. Do they save lives? More than likely, based on reported statistics.

I’ll be writing about these subjects in the next articles to come.

Let’s make a difference.
Clay Ryan

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