Arts & Culture

YouTube videos offer solace, and laughs, to those struggling with mental health issues

In 2012, British YouTuber Zoella, a beauty vlogger, released a video where she discussed her history with panic attacks and anxiety. Not only has it amassed over 4 million views, it prompted UK mental health charity Mind to make her a digital ambassador in 2014.
In 2012, British YouTuber Zoella, a beauty vlogger, released a video where she discussed her history with panic attacks and anxiety. Not only has it amassed over 4 million views, it prompted UK mental health charity Mind to make her a digital ambassador in 2014.

It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much I love YouTube.

The video-sharing platform that started 12 years ago is a site I visit constantly. Heck, before I started writing this column, I indulged in some last-minute procrastination by perusing through some old clips of “The Daily Show.”

Like a true YouTube consumer, I subscribe to many channels. Over the years, I’ve became obsessed with channels run by The Fine Bros., a pair of siblings who rose through the viral-video ranks thanks to their “React” videos. In the videos, they have different groups of people, from kids to teens to elders to even their fellow YouTube creators, react to videos, trends, food, etc.

The kids’ videos are both the best and, usually, the most viewed, especially when the brothers hand them ancient technology like Walkmans, typewriters and payphones and have them try to figure out how to use them. Needless to say, these videos aren’t for adults who hate feeling old.

There are other channels whose videos give me endless, re-watchable joy. There’s All Def Digital, a blacker, funnier takeoff of the BuzzFeed channels, originally launched by rap mogul Russell Simmons.

There’s First We Feast, a food channel that’s home to the hysterical “Hot Ones,” a talk show where the guests answer questions while devouring a collection of hot wings, with each wing getting spicier and more excruciating than the next. (Past guests have included Kevin Hart, Redman, Ricky Gervais, Rachael Ray and DJ Khaled, who eventually tapped out halfway through.)

And there’s Screen Junkies, where you can find fanboys and film nerds dish and debate on movies, as well as the popular “Honest Trailers” series, where blockbuster movies are hilariously called out for the flaws they failed to mention in their trailers. (Some filmmakers who’ve gotten the “Honest” treatment have appeared on the channel to explain themselves.)

The YouTube universe is rarely a disappointing one. After years of watching movies and TV shows, desperately searching for gems amidst the endless junk, I’m always entertained by these brief bursts of video enjoyment.

I’ve also come to realize that I watch YouTube to keep my mental well-being in check. As someone who often has to keep depression at bay, I’ve found that dipping into YouTube and checking out some clips can also work as a great antidepressant.

I’m not the only one who thinks YouTube works better than Zoloft. Last year, a blogger who goes by Meagan wrote a piece on her “okay now breathe” blog titled “How YouTube Has Helped Fight My Depression,” where she laid out how the site got her out of her serious doldrums.

“It has been the biggest contributor in my fight against depression,” Meagan wrote. “Watching these videos helped me fight the loneliness I felt late at night. They let me wake up in a house that wasn’t so quiet. And most importantly, they helped me stop thinking about suicide.”

Meagan listed three beauty vloggers – Sarah Hawkinson, danger0usperson and JAMbeauty89 – who have been very vocal about their personal health issues.

But they are just a few of the content creators who have used the platform to be brutally honest about mental illness. In 2012, British YouTuber Zoella, another beauty vlogger, dropped a video where she discussed her history with panic attacks and anxiety. Not only has it amassed over 4 million views, it prompted UK mental health charity Mind to make her a digital ambassador in 2014.

Popular gamer Markiplier and notorious prankster fouseyTUBE have also each made videos where they opened up about having bipolar disorder.

While viral-video celebs might be dismissed for being shameless attention hogs, sharing every last detail of their lives to the public through vlogs and funny videos, it is comforting and admirable seeing many of them also come clean about their mental illnesses.

Unfortunately, mental illness still continues to be an issue that’s rarely discussed on a wider scale. It certainly needs to be discussed after recent tragic events in Las Vegas and Texas.

Thankfully, YouTube has became a forum where mentally ill people can not only get some eclectic, entertaining solace, but some of the platform’s most successful contributors are also there to remind them they’re not alone in their struggles.

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