Mental health is a potent issue with YouTube and the rest of social media. Not a day goes by that some major YouTuber doesn’t post some explanation of their personal issues in a tearful and/or affirming video of hope. From Zoella and her anxiety to Autumn Asphodel and her multiple personalities, we’re an afflicted lot. And that’s what makes Project UROK, which can be read as U-ROK or UR-OK, I’ve noticed, such an integral organization. Seriously though, it’s pronounced UR-OK. But it does ROK.
Working with a TV star, YouTuber and, now, outspoken activist for mental health issues, Wil Wheaton, Project UROK is bringing the attention to mental health through social media. And since we cover all things social media, we figured this was right up our alley.
We fired off some questions to the founder of Project UROK (and former College Humor writer), Jenny Jaffe, to figure out just how mental health and social media intersect.
How did Wil and UROK team up on this?
Jenny: I’m a big fan of Wil’s, and knew he was vocal about his struggles with depression. When our crew was headed to LA to film some videos my friend Mara (Wilson) suggested reaching out to him and initially Tweeted at him on UROK’s behalf, then I had Heidi, our publicist, follow up. He and his team were so responsive, wonderful, and easy to work with.
Is this going to be an ongoing campaign with Wil? Or will you be introducing other YouTubers into the conversation?
Well, obviously we would love to continue working with Wil, although we have no immediate plans for the future. And we’re always looking for more interesting people- certainly YouTubers in particular- who want to participate in the campaign. Really we’re trying to create a platform for whoever wants to tell their story, no matter who they are.
What are some of the extreme signs on social media that someone should seek professional help?
I should preface this by saying that I am not a mental health professional, and that I think it’s a common misconception that people should wait until they’re in a crisis to seek professional help. I truly believe therapy is for everyone, and should be a basic right, not a luxury. That said, we have seen a few messages we’ve forwarded along to a few of the mental health professionals on our board.
Generally if a person tells you they are in crisis, believe them. This advice from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is better than any I could give:
Is the UROK campaign specifically tailored to bringing mental health awareness to young people?
It is, but it’s here for anyone who needs it. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on age, and neither do we!
What are some valuable ways people who don’t feel they have mental illnesses can contribute to a campaign like this?
Obviously donating so we can continue to do this kind of work is a wonderful option! Publicly self-identifying as an ally for mental health can be helpful in many ways—you never know who you might know who needs an open-minded friend to talk to. If you’re in high school consider joining a Best Buddies program. And you can always can check out www.projecturok.org for more ways to get involved!
This is a great cause and we’re happy to share it with you all.