Finding Mental Health and Wellness in Unexpected YouTube Niches
YouTube has bloomed into a whole ecosystem of content, a hub for viewers to engage in communities obsessed with the newest makeup trends, speedrunning horror games, Vine compilations, amateur film school, and so much more. Of the dozens of channels I follow, I noticed of late there is a strong through line of creators who mindfully touch on mental health and wellness issues in unexpected ways. The breadth of content means almost anyone is likely to find at least one amazing new channel, so I’m here to share seven brilliant channels who serve their stellar content with an unexpected side of extra serotonin.*Co-editor and host at video game journalism power houses Outside Xtra and its sister channel Outside Xbox, Luke Westaway set up a personal channel on the side. His very British humor, earnestness, and love of fancy goblets attracted some 8K subscribers, who delight in his candid streams of writing music, reading Victorian ghost stories, and building Lego sets. In the lead up to Halloween, Westaway hosted a special fundraising stream as part of his ghost story series. Over the course of him reading one of his all time favorite stories, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, he hoped to raise £250. In two hours, he and his community raised over £10,000 for British charity MIND.
He is better suited for describing an organization that means so much to him than I. In the description box, he wrote, “Mind is an incredible mental health charity that offers help for those suffering with mental health issues, support lines and community centres, and campaigns to fight the stigma around mental health.” This is one example of his activism bringing attention to pervasive mental health issues as well as supporting his followers through humorous, chill content and has succeeded in creating one of the best YouTube communities I have ever witnessed.
This art channel has had a particularly difficult 2020, starting it out on a stumble as Drawfee’s parent company, College Humor, shut down and laid-off all employees, including the Drawfee staff. The beloved comedy crew consisting of four stunningly talented but very different artists and their editor extraordinaire, David, managed to stay afloat. Immediately after receiving the news, their community asked how best to support the team’s desire to continue their work. With a great deal of stress and hard work, Drawfee became an independent channel providing the same art challenges, prompts, lessons, RPGs, and more.
Julia, Jacob, Nathan, and Karina aren’t shy about discussing mental health and coping mechanisms on their channel. The pandemic hasn’t changed that, but recently the team has been a comforting resource of how to get out of doom-scrolls, dealing with having a public presence, and just getting through the daily grind. While their personal lives remain largely private, they don’t avoid discussing real issues and trying times. Their honesty, advice, and take-no-bullshit attitudes have created an equally real and positive community united under the banner of hilarious art and ironically unapologetic We’re sorry!s.
Samantha Ravndahl is a Canadian beauty YouTuber who does not give a fuck if you don’t approve of her feminist, badass, no-regular-upload-schedule self. She began her career as a professional make-up artist working for commercial clients and evolved in the advent of Instagram and Youtube’s rising popularity as a monetizable platform.
Ravndahl, like Drawfee, freely confronts the difficulties of modern adult life, but when I say confront, I mean confront. She isn’t afraid of entering political territory and encourages respectful but raw discourse in her community regarding privilege, women’s rights, as well as health and sexuality, and more. Political is a scary word in the mental health realm. We equate politics with stress (rightly so), but something about watching a woman share an educated, articulate opinion on a smorgasbord of controversial matters while whipping out a flawless cateye negates the stress, leaving the watcher relaxed and informed.
Having struggled with major depressive disorder since her teenage years, Ravndahl had shared her journey getting on the right medication and going to therapy. Her frankness and guidance demystifies a process that is otherwise extremely intimidating. As a fun surprise on random days, Samantha will also host a livestream in which she engages in dialogue with her community, answering questions and sharing her thoughts, and does not save the livestream. Most YouTubers would decry the loss of content, but she refuses to record the stream knowing the relative privacy and impermanence are foundational to making others comfortable enough to talk honestly.
Jeremy Jahns is an icon and mainstay in the reviewing world, analyzing movies, TV shows, and video games kept brief with rapidfire editing and sharp commentary. He ranks the media he consumes on a bullshit but weirdly accurate rating scale he made up. Additionally, it is a commonly held belief that he is measuring the pandemic’s duration by the length of his beard.
In the last couple of years, Jahns added monthly vlogs to his channel to show off his adorable pups Gipsy and Danger and give a little behind-the-scenes to those who cared or were curious. These vlogs catalogue the highs and lows of his life, and he utilizes his personal experience to promote and clear up misconceptions regarding therapy. He believes everyone, even those without diagnosed mental illnesses, should go to and would benefit immensely from consistent therapy.
Rowena Tsai comes from the pedigree of popular skincare and health channel Beauty Within. She is a host and co-editor alongside her friend and fellow host Felicia. There, they compare formulas, help people with skin concerns find the right care for their needs, and explore the subjective meanings of personal beauty, in and out.
Tsai launched her personal channel in 2016 with the goal of sharing scientifically backed methods of practical self-care and self-betterment. Reading that, it may appear that her channel is one of the many hit-or-miss motivation channels, but that isn’t necessarily the case. After struggling with grief, a wild youth, and suffering mental health, Tsai seeks to share what helped and continues to help her live as her best self. She freely shares her successes and failures (such as her trouble with committing to a 5AM morning routine), and is a peaceful island in a bloated, over-commercialized industry. Check out the gentle, fresh voice for health and acceptance that her channel is if you want to get a real look at what healthy productivity culture is and be called a “sweetest potato.”
I had been hesitant to include Beatrice Caruso, but she is too good to not and I feel she represents a demographic this article hasn’t yet touched upon enough. Why hesitate? Well, Caruso’s channel is about fitness on the cover but through every single video is her figuring out how to navigate a fitness journey sustainably while also not falling into mental health trappings which enabled bad habits for so long. Since this list is about unexpected places to find mental health and wellness content, I debated, but came to the conclusion the fitness community needs more people like her and so do we.
Caruso struggles with disordered eating, social anxiety, and depression, so the healthy eating aspect of her journey to lose 100lbs is tricky territory. Her channel is quite new, Bea having joined in April 2020, and she’s kept the About nice and short, writing: “Trying to make this 100lb weight loss journey as fun and painless as possible lol.” Her laugh and bright outlook keeps her content light while also showing that she has real issues she is actively overcoming. Sometimes, she gets off track, but these moments are addressed, used as data rather than viewed as a personal failure, and she proceeds just as strong as before.
Our last entry is from the realm of the YouTube writing space. Hello Future Me has offered story analysis, instruction, and collaboration to its community for years now, talking about Avatar: The Last Airbender maybe “a little too much,” but no one is complaining! Video essayist extraordinaire Timothy Hickson heads the channel and was able to recently publish a book containing the first volume of his world-building, character creation, and magic systems.
Like Luke Westaway, Tim has frequently hosted fundraising events for charities, including a 24-hour stream to raise money and awareness for Tiltify’s Crisis Text Line #GetOutTheNumber campaign. Donations went to support the functions of a crisis line which supports and prevents self-harm and suicide as well as provides resources to those struggling with all mental illnesses. He has insightful, conscientious, and educated content evaluating mental health, gender, and sexuality in modern media from how Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice depicted schizophrenia to the psychology of Azula to the complex problems involved in writing suicide and self-harm. He is always careful about including trigger and content warnings, a sadly underused but easy tool to protect vulnerable viewers, and has crafted a community based around respectful discourse.
And that is our list! I hope you have found a new and exciting adventure in one of these channels and gain a positive influence on your social media life through them. All of these channels do great work for their communities, large and small, and deserve the recognition and support we all need at times!
*There are so many incredible mental health and wellness channels I follow and know obliquely of, but this list is dedicated to channels not dedicated to these issues.