It seems YouTube is filled with talk of mental health. We’ve seen Zoella open up about her anxiety and become a digital ambassador for MIND as a result. Spurred on by Zoe’s openness, we’ve since seen Tanya Burr detail to fans about the anxiety she feels. But what about the YouTubers who don’t make these big mental illness announcement videos and mention their condition sporadically? What about the YouTubers who live with mental health issues every minute of every day and keep making content through it all?
The mental health panel at Summer In The City was a revelation. Consisting of Leena Norms, Melanie Murphy, TomSka, Luke Cutforth, Morgan Paige Loves, Beckie0 and Catrific, the panel were open about their conditions and a packed out audience of all races, age groups and sexes were eager to learn more and share their own experiences.
If mental health had ever been a taboo, this panel smashed it right open.
Here’s the 7 things that made sure the panel got an even bigger cheer than Dan and Phil.
“I make the videos I wanted/needed to see when I was 14” – TomSka
For us, this was one of the best quotes from the whole weekend. Tom spoke about his issues in his typically hilarious way but it didn’t take away the seriousness of the issues he covered. With an audience filled with (mainly) teens, Tom had them gripped on his every word and came across more relatable than ever. Lacking in an outlet like social media and YouTube when he was 14, Tom is now making sure there’s resources for teens going through the same troubles he did.
“I make sure I tell people to see a professional… I’m not the messiah” – Melanie Murphy
There was a lot of talk from the panel about how they deal with being role models and troubled fans seeing them as the be all and end all of mental health advice. Whilst Melanie and the rest of the panel clearly make videos to help people, there was a huge reiteration that (most) YouTubers aren’t doctors and their advice stems from personal experiences and not from a medical degree or similar.
“If I can create a framework where people can help themselves, it’s better and more empowering for them” – Luke Cutforth
In March 2013, Luke posted a video on his second channel which was aimed at people who self harm and helping them quit. But Luke is keen for people to know he’s just provided an outlet and a coping mechanism and it’s actually people helping themselves by taking up the cupcake challenge. Throughout Luke’s time on the panel, he echoed home the importance of empowering those with mental health difficulties and making sure they know it’s their own courage that’s beating their issues and that should be rewarded.
“Sometimes talking about it too much can keep you in that negative cycle” – Luke Cutforth
Because YouTube and the Internet is a great resource when you’re struggling with mental health issues, Luke rightly told the crowd that watching so many YouTube videos and reading so many Tumblr posts on a certain condition can lead to being triggered back into that dark cycle.
“When you can’t explain, find [a YouTube video] that can” – Leena Norms
During the Q&A part of the panel, one member of the audience spoke about the difficulty in telling their parents about their issues for fear of being labelled “lazy”. A gem of an answer came from panel host Leena Norms. Whether it’s bringing up Zoella’s anxiety video or showing friends or family members Beckie0’s Trichotillomania playlist, YouTube now offers a more tangible way to open up about mental illness.
“Ultimately it’s going to be better and more preventative to talk about it than not at all” – Morgan Paige Love
Have we seen an increase in people opening up about mental health since YouTube stars made videos? Absolutely. But have we also seen an increase in people finding these videos a trigger for their own issues? Yes. A member of the audience brought up the fact that viewers may turn to things like self harm if they see their favourite YouTubers talking about how they used to do it. But, as Morgan rightly acknowledged, the only other option is not to talk about mental health at all. Fearing the actions of a handful of people versus potentially helping hundreds of thousands makes it a no-brainer.
“Be grateful for what you do have” – Melanie Murphy
It may sound like “fluffy” advice on the surface but Melanie Murphy made one of the most important points from the panel. In the depths of mental illness, focusing on the plus points in ones life is near impossible but being grateful on a daily basis for the small things like friends, family, the great burger you had for lunch or that time Tyler Oakley favourited your tweet leads to an overall better state of mind.
Congratulations to the panel for owning one of the most important issues in modern day life.
If you’re currently in need of support, The Samaritans are available on 08457 90 90 90 or at Samaritans.org