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Interview: Myles Dyer on mental health and 2018 Youtube Creators for Change

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If you haven’t already heard of him, listen up, because this YouTube Creator for Change is someone you need to know.

Myles Dyer is a man you don't want to miss. A skilled YouTuber and activist, he uses his channel to talk about mental health, politics and more. In his time on Youtube, you'd be amazed at how much he's achieved!

His accomplishments range from setting up the first U.K. YouTube gatherings, to developing a way video blogging could be used as a tool to help people with depression. He previously put together a team to represent the Youtube community on a BBC reality television programme, and then won, and has used video to help hold the government to account.

If you thought this was a lot, prepare to be amazed, as this is just the tip of the iceberg! Find out what else Myles has been up to on his channel. 

Following a head injury that left him suffering from bouts of depression he has used his channel to discuss mental health, with his video “staying true to your depressed self” being viewed nearly three thousand times. 

Read our interview with him below:

For those who don’t know, could you please explain a little about your head injury and how it impacted your mental health?

About four years ago I was working in an office one evening and went into the toilet cubicle. As I closed the door I heard a massive bang and the next thing I knew, I was slumped against the wall with blood everywhere. It turned out a tile had come loose from the wall and whacked me on the head. I wasn’t knocked out, but it was the after effects that were the issue. I had post-concussion syndrome and it impacted my left middle ear and therefore my balance.

One of the toughest aspects of my recovery was the first 100 days as it was so intense. Every aspect of my life dissipated – I stopped playing with a band, stopped making videos, avoided seeing my friends and didn’t do any sort of exercise. My feeling of self was majorly affected and I developed depression, loneliness and a lack of self-worth. Usually, if one thing falls away in your life, such as a friendship, you have other things to focus on but I didn’t have that. I felt like I was floating in space.

Is there any advice you would give to people struggling with mental health issues like depression or anxiety, both of which you have mentioned in your videos?

It’s always difficult to give advice with sounding patronising, so it’s important to caveat that different people have different experiences and there’s not a one size fits all solution. However, the first thing I would say is don’t suffer in silence - whether it’s a friend, family member of even your doctor, tell someone. It’s by no means easy and takes courage to open up, but just letting someone know your state of mind can help you not feel as bad. Express yourself and talk out loud about how you’re feeling.

My second piece of advice would be to look online at blogs, videos and articles created by people who have gone through similar things. Relating to someone else’s experience can give you a new perspective. First though I would say always tell someone how you’re feeling first as that’s the most important thing.

Your videos often discuss mental health in an educational way, explaining the reality of living with such conditions and how it can impact your day to day life. Do you see your videos as a tool for education and greater understanding of mental health?

The internet is a tool for information and shared experience. I’ve always regarded video as an empathy machine and whenever I’ve talked about what I’ve gone through the response has been so amazing and humbling. Although not everyone has been in the exact same situation, if they take away one nugget of advice or positivity from my videos then that’s progress.

I don’t aim for my videos to be educational, it’s just me sharing my experiences and hoping that it resonates with people and helps them through their own struggles. It’s also a two-way street, the responses that I get from others can also help me. That’s the great thing about the online world, it’s a platform of shared experience, empathy and critical thought that provides an opportunity to learn from other people’s success, mistake and failures – everything.

Along the same vein, do you think enough is being done in the U.K. to educate people on mental health problems and encourage empathy and understanding?

A lot more is being done that has been in the past, but there’s still a long way to go. When I was recovering from my head injury I did Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which I have since thought should be taught in schools. 

The purpose of school is to prepare you for the future, whether it’s learning how to cook or sex education, and that’s what CBT offers. It’s looking back at past experiences and using that to prepare for the future by being aware of how your brain works and how to react to certain things. I think it would be really useful to teach CBT in schools so that the next generation is more aware of their mental health and how to tackle issues that might arise.

In a previous video, you mentioned the importance of body language for mental health. Are there any poses/stances that you would recommend?

The Superman Pose: stand with your legs shoulders width apart, put your hands on your hips, stand with your shoulders back and look up.

Amy Cuddy did a TED talk about body language and how you can ‘fake it until you become it’. It’s about the fact that these so called ‘power poses’ actually have a biological effect where cortisol levels in your body go down and endorphins are released. This impacts your psychological wellbeing positively which, in turn, will improve your physical wellbeing.

Any physical exercise is also important if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Even if it’s near midnight I go to my local gym on the treadmill or for a bike ride. It gives you something else to think about, so I highly recommend that.

Similarly, are there any stances which you believe have a negative effect on a person's mental health?

I don’t think that stances have a negative effect on a mental health, but I do believe that one of the biggest driving forces of depression and mental health issues in society today is that we have two types of value systems at odds with each other.

The internet has broadened our horizons and allowed us to become more aware of the world around us, not just the injustices down our street or across the country, but around the world. We are creating a generation who are internet-natives who have their eyes wide open to so much injustice in the world, and what is happening is they realise that we live in a system where the value systems haven’t evolved at a rate that our own value systems have by education ourselves with the internet. 

What I believe is happening is that this is driving a lot of depression because people’s minds are opened up to so many possibilities of what is possible in the world when people work together and societies look for idea that could make us progress. Our current government structures and the way our economy works is at odds with that – whether it’s people that aren’t able to get on the property ladder, those in debt because of education, or they’re not eating well because healthier food seems expensive – all these things are having an impact. I think that’s the biggest driving force with mental health issues.

You occasionally mention other YouTubers or speakers in your videos. Do you find inspiration and motivation from others who discuss similar content? Do they influence your channel at all?

I’m not only inspired by YouTubers, but anything I see online or on social media that resonates with me. Courage is contagious and the fact that I see value in what they’ve done spurs me on to realise that people will find value in the content I create. People talk about an issue that I can relate to, but I have my own take on it. There’s plurality of the experience and the diverse nature that everyone has a different experience, even if there are similarities. Everyone should find a voice and speak out because they may help someone out there in a way that others may not have been able to.

Is it ever difficult to discuss your mental health on such a public platform?

I do think it can be difficult, but I believe that there are so many positives from sharing your experience with others.

I’ve moved past feeling it’s too difficult as I’ve created so much content around the topic. I’ve been a video blogger for 11 years and it’s given me tougher skin. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have vulnerabilities, but the amount of joy I get from seeing the positive impact my content is having on others makes it worth it, even if there are a few people who try and discourage me.

When I was studying psychology at university, I created a theory called ‘expressive insight’ which is based on creating videos to help alleviate depressive symptoms. The process is that when you’re feeling down you record yourself talking about what’s on your mind, as letting it out makes you feel better. The next stage is watching it back, as you can see yourself in the third person and are more likely to give yourself objective advice. Then editing the content can help as you can understand the narrative better and it may help clarify what your particular issue is. The final step is uploading it online – which can be troublesome as the internet is a Wild West in some ways and can put you in a vulnerable place, but there’s also an amazing community out there that can support and encourage you.

What is the best and worst thing which has come from using YouTube to discuss your mental health and activism?

The best thing has been the feedback. I did a video in 2009 called ‘You Are Not Alone’ which was filmed just after I’d had therapy and is me explaining that anyone can go through tough times, no matter how confident they appear to the world, and it’s okay to go and get help. There was one comment on that video I’ll never forget – someone had said the video had helped them come off medication and instead seek alternative help. It wasn’t because I was an exceptional person, it was because I was sharing my experience and I had taken the time to do it and that’s why it’s such an important thing to do. There’s something fundamental about creating this blanket of open conversation across the world which may help people not go further down the line with depression and resorting to more drastic measures.

The most difficult thing was when I did that video and I received letters and videos from people for years and some would send notes saying they were on the edge of life and they needed help. It’s difficult to do the whole ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing because as soon as your eyes land on that page your involved in their story. I would respond to people but it became overwhelming and it’s tricky to be that involved when you’re not a professional. The video format works as people can watch it over again and it’s a forum to discuss how you’re feeling with others who may be in similar situations.

How does it feel to be chosen to be one of YouTube’s 2018 YouTube Creators for Change?

It’s an absolute honour to be a part of the Creators for Change 2018 class. I had the most amazing experience in 2017, meeting people from all over the world, bringing their diverse range of experiences and ideas to the table, which really strengthened my view. To be able to do it for a second year, with a lot more confidence, is exciting. Last year gave me more confidence around production and the grant money helped me do some of my bigger ideas. 

Is there anything on the horizon which you are excited to share with your viewers?

This year I’m able to work on a project I’ve wanted to do for about 8 years which is my own podcast show. It’s longform content talking about how people have evolved over the years and there’s no doubt that mental health will come up as we’re all human beings and we’ve had vulnerabilities. Actually, it’s in those moments of felt weakness that our true strength comes through if we are able to fight through it and I think those are some really good stories that are worth sharing and I will be sharing.

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