“I make comedy videos sharing all the worst moments of my life and aspects of my personality” is how Daniel Howell describes his job. Since uploading his first video to YouTube in 2009, he’s gained over 12 million subscribers and 1.3 billion views.
But behind the overwhelmingly big numbers are people who connect and relate to what Dan says. “As I met more of my viewers over the years, I realised they considered me a close friend and an important part of their lives.”
It was this connection with his viewers that urged Dan to want to be open about his depression. And so on World Mental Health Day in October Dan uploaded a video, ‘Daniel and Depression’. Two months on from that, at the YouTube UK On Stage event, Dan spoke about what led him to make this video and the reaction he received. Here’s an excerpt from his talk:
“Since I was a teenager I’ve been struggling with depression. And only in the last couple years have I truly realised what a huge impact it’s had on my life growing up.
Pulling me down, crushing my motivation, wasting my energy, hating myself, making me think life isn’t worth living.
My elephant in the room was a towering black dog leering over me, that I felt ashamed to admit existed.
I was scared, honestly, that if I told anyone they wouldn’t understand; they’d tell me to get over it, that I just wanted sympathy, or even that it would hurt my career showing this weakness. But I just felt like I couldn’t continue this relationship with the people supporting me if I wasn’t honest about something that was a huge part of my life.
So after months of going back and forth internally, on October 10th this year which was ‘World Mental Health Day’, I uploaded the video ‘Daniel and Depression’, where I told this story of my experiences, what it’s like, how it started and the long and painful journey of medication that turned me into a content vegetable, trying different therapists after being told my “chi wasn’t aligned” by one, extremely reluctant exercise and support from the people around me that led to being a remotely functional human being.
Which is still highly debatable today.
Now when I scrolled down to read the comments, I was braced for the worst of what the internet has to offer.
Which I’m sure anyone here with a Twitter account can probably relate to, but what I found honestly surprised me.
An outpouring of understanding and support from millions of people that were proud of me sharing this or even related to my story.
I read thousands of comments like “this describes me and I never knew it wasn’t normal to feel this way” people saying “this inspired me to finally pick myself up and try to get better”. Press across social media and even a few traditional ones were writing about and sharing the video saying how it was a great thing.
I even had fellow Creators messaging me saying they felt less alone in their struggles just from me speaking out - and I felt like a burden had lifted. Instead of the constant anxiety of pretending everything is fine and like I had a dirty secret, I felt loved and supported and powerful that I finally owned this part of my life.
And most importantly, like I finally intimately connected back with the community of viewers who supported me.
As a result of this video I’m now a proud ambassador for the charity YoungMinds, supported by the Royal Foundation, who raise awareness for mental health issues affecting young people. They change the stigma and stereotypes, and fight for better care and support.”