Way back in 2012, before book deals, cosmetic lines and baby pugs, Zoella unwittingly championed open discussion about mental health – predominantly around the issues of panic attacks and anxiety. It was one of the greatest feats achieved on the YouTube platform to date. It meant other creators gained the courage to speak up about their own experiences of mental illness. They helped their fans through their own dark times, spreading awareness and assurance that ailments like depression, anxiety and bi-polar are not abnormal and certainly not a thing to be ashamed of.
Considering 1 in 4 people will suffer with mental illness during their lifetime, the topic remains one of the most prominent and important cause for YouTubers to talk about online.
There’s still a stigma to beat. Depression in particular is a fatal secret to keep – more men die from suicide every year than from cancer – but people of all ages still feel too ashamed to open up about what’s really going on.
So here’s our intervention. Today we’re shining a spotlight on truly great YouTubers who are leading the crusade against mental health stigma. If any of the issues discussed in this article feel like they might apply to you, we cannot stress enough how OK it is to speak to someone about it. A parent, a trusted friend, your GP… anyone. These guys would say the same.
Let’s start back at the beginning. As soon as Zoe Suggs started weaving anxiety videos into her usual makeup tutorials, young people started to sit up and pay attention. She went mainstream, appearing on nationwide TV shows like This Morning to demonstrate that good things can happen when you discuss anxiety. She appeared on the show with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield in September 2014, and was announced as an ambassador for mental health charity Mind the following month.
Beckie Jane Brown (formerly Beckie0) also began vlogging about a much lesser-known illness called Trichotillomania; a condition where someone feels compelled to pull their hair out.
Beckie compiled years worth of photos, taken every day, to show how the condition has changed and affected how she looks as she lives with the condition. She still produces updated compilations as part of her TrichJournal movement, and are frequently picked up by news outlets such as the BBC.
Not everyone is down with the unboxing vid trend, but for those who are, YouTubers such as Beckie Jane Brown and Carrie-Hope Fletcher have amazingly been able to use it to raise mental health awareness.
The platform has worked amazingly well for mental health charity Blurt, renowned for their incredible Buddy Box packages. Aspiring YouTubers have taken to the camera in their droves to reveal what’s inside their monthly “hug in a box”, with Carrie leading the way after having a good few sent to her West End dressing room and expressing huge support for the charity. Are they cute or what?!
Anxiety and depression are perhaps the most well-known mental health conditions, but it can be easy to forget that eating disorders fall under this umbrella too.
TomSka’s story of depression and eating disorders is possibly one of the more harrowing that we’ve heard, but also the best documented due to his weight loss vlog series, Fat Loser. He details how his unhealthy attitude to food and drinking has made his weight fluctuate greatly for most of his love, as well as causing him a significant amount of liver damage. It’s a hard watch but offers a lot of learning to his viewers, and we really hope he finds his balance soon. Big love to you, TomSka <3
Melanie Murphy also made an incredible breakthrough video covering her recovery from a two-year battle with anorexia, body dysmorphia, orthorexia and binge-eating disorder. Her story of struggle is balanced by clarifying that she’s now happier and healthier than she’s ever been – a real lifeline for viewers who feel like their own struggle may never end.
Over in the States, gamers Markiplier, Cyndago and JackSepticEye ran a quick-but-effective campaign for the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, promising donors to the cause that if they reached $100,000 in four hours, they’d all dye their hair. Mission: Complete.
Last but not least, we come to one of the more misunderstood areas of suffering with depression – how exactly do you cure this terrible condition?
First off, depression as an illness is such a new concept that there’s not a whole lot of research out there that has offered a conclusive method for recovery. The experience and what will and won’t help is unique for every single person, which is why there are so many differing opinions on depression medication on YouTube right now. There is no “right answer”, however it’s professionally recommended that the best route of recovery involves a mix of therapy, meditation and medication. It’s the medication part that seems to spark the biggest argument and the most shame with regards to mental health stigma, but videos like Anna Asana’s most recent one about taking medication to help with depression are conversations that need to be had.
Over To You
Have we missed out a mental health vlogger or video that changed your life when it comes to mental health? What do you think is the best way your favourite YouTuber can help spread the word about mental illness?