With a channel boasting over six million subscribers, 29-year-old British YouTuber Dan Howell is a familiar face to many around the world. Howell first began posting videos in 2009 for his own personal amusement but after encouragement from friends, in 2011 he decided to drop out of a law degree at the University of Manchester to pursue vlogging as a full-time profession. Over the last ten years, the videos uploaded by Howell and his flatmate, friend and fellow vlogger Phil Lester have been watched over a billion times and the pair have also hosted an award-winning radio show and even published two bestselling books, The Amazing Book is Not on Fire and Dan and Phil Go Outside.
With his trademark self-deprecating humour, Howell's knack for being entertaining even while discussing deeply personal matters has struck a chord with young people. And like fellow celebs Selena Gomez and Lady Gaga, he has been open about his own struggles with mental health, posting videos like 2017's "Daniel and Depression", where he talks about his experiences with clinical depression, antidepressants, therapy, and his journey to recovery, which has to date clocked up over three and a half million views.
After he and Lester expressed their support for #HelloYellow, an initiative promoted by YoungMinds, a leading UK charity dedicated to promoting the mental health of children and young people, the organisation made him an ambassador, and Howell has continued to engage with the issue in his own uniquely engaging yet nuanced way.
He is currently concluding work on You Will Get Through This Night, due out in May 2021, a book which the cover blurb describes as a “practical guide to taking control of your mental health for today, tomorrow, and the days after” which he has written with the help of clinical psychologist Dr Heather Bolton. Speaking about the book in a recent interview with The Guardian, Howell discusses the homophobia he faced when younger (Howell came out as gay in a video posted on his channel in 2019) and his teenage suicide attempt, and comments on how much more work is needed on the issue, saying, “even in the last few years, when the conversation about mental health has been much more of a priority on the table, it’s still not nearly enough.”
Howell is critical of what he calls “token investments” from governments, saying that what is really needed is a cultural shift towards understanding and prioritising mental health which puts the emphasis on prevention rather than cure before concluding by speaking about about the importance of managing your thoughts and thought processes. “Learning how to step back and get some perspective from that is important,” he says. “If you catch yourself (...) going into this negative thought space, just to learn how to actually know how to snap yourself out of that … really does make a difference.”