The Mental Health panel took place on Saturday at Summer in the City 2016. It featured creators Beckie Brown, Wot Fanar, and Gary C. It was chaired by Teoh Lander-Boyce.
The panel took place to a packed audience in Panel Room 2. Teoh Lander-Boyce kicked it off by asking whether the panellists thought there is a stigma around talking publicly about mental health. Comparing YouTube now to back in 2006 when he started, Gary C said: “People are more open and more willing to share who they are and what they suffer from or how they experience life.”
“When I started vlogging it was me just talking about my life,” said Beckie Brown. “When it came to mental health it was really easy for me to talk about.”
Beckie has received heavy media attention after some of her videos went viral, including She Takes A Photo: 6.5 Years, which documents her struggle with Trichotillomania and other aspects of her mental health. Having been negatively affected by hate comments in the past, she says that now she just focuses on the positive responses. “You build up a brick wall,” she said.
The panel also discussed the positive impact creating YouTube videos can have on your mental health. Gary described his videos as “making a dent in the universe. It’s nice to have that little time capsule to look back on,” he continued, adding that it’s something which can benefit you at your best and worst times.
“I can be emotionally raw in the moment, but I need to have got slightly out of that dip to then actually post it and be ready to accept other people seeing it,” shared Wot Fanar.
Wot also commented that mental health conditions such as depression can be a hindrance to productivity, referring to it as “happiness blindness”. He thought it can, however, be beneficial for creative outlets such as comedy, saying: “You are able to pick things apart in a way that you can’t normally.”
The panel all agreed that it’s important to put yourself first if you’re looking to create YouTube videos about mental health. Gary suggested not putting unnecessary pressures on yourself, such as a regular upload schedule. He himself has never kept to an upload schedule for this reason, saying: “[My next video] is up when I’m ready and I’m well enough.”
Beckie added that when you are struggling with your mental health, it can be helpful for people who face similar things to watch content they can see themselves in, but that you shouldn’t force yourself to create something if it’s too difficult at that time. Gary pointed to a recent culture on YouTube of feeling the need to upload a personal video because the subject was popular. “Because there’s a coming out video and it does well everyone feels like they have to come out,” he said. “Don’t feel you have to spill your guts and be vulnerable.”
An audience member asked the panel what YouTubers and their audiences can do to further the conversation about mental health online. Wot responded that mental health vloggers such as himself are often contacted by people looking for advice. He encouraged people to offer advice if they can, as he often cannot respond to everyone.
Beckie’s advice is to focus on the positives of people’s videos, especially if it looks like they may be struggling, as pointing that out could make it more difficult for them.
Photos by Jon D Barker.
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