How John Green is helping destigmatize mental health issues

John Green is a man with many hats. He’s a bestselling author (as in, he gets awesome reviews before his books are even FINISHED) and the co-creator of the awesome vlogbrothers YouTube channel. Actually, he’s the co-creator (along with his brother, Hank) of a ton of things. Like Crash Course, in which the Green brothers give us an actual crash course in a variety of subjects; the vids are even being used in educational settings. And NerdCon. And he runs the Project for Awesome, an annual charity event in his community. He’s also a husband and a father.

So back to the whole man-with-many-hats thing: A metaphorical closet FILLED with hats, guys.

Another thing to add to the list of why John is the best human of all the humans? He is always refreshingly open about topics that truly matter, such as mental health awareness. In the past, he has tweeted about his use of medication in an attempt to destigmatize mental health. And in Thursday’s Reddit AMA, John answered a deeply personal question about mental illness in his characteristic honest manner. When a fan asked him how he manages his anxiety on the road and during press junkets (such as his most recent tour to promote Paper Towns, his latest film adaptation), John responded, “In a word: Poorly.” John went on to explain that he has OCD and a lot of issues with anxiety. “I’ve known that I have this mental illness for a long time,” John told the Redditor, “and I’ve had a lot of therapy and learned a lot of strategies for dealing with my illness. I know the benefits of exercise and meditation and medication and [cognitive behavioral therapy] strategies and etc.” John expressed the importance of viewing mental illness as seriously as any physical illness. “. . . I try to treat my mental illness the way you would any chronic illness, and I’m very lucky that in general it’s very manageable,” John explained. “But it’s hard to describe just how extreme and overwhelming press junkets are. (I mean, I realize these are the first-worldiest problems possible; I’m just trying to be honest about my experience.)” He expressed the importance of having a friend who understands and helps you through it. “I was very lucky to have Nat Wolff with me almost all the time,” John wrote. “Nat is a very close friend of mine, and I also trust him a lot. Whenever I got overwhelmed, he would take most of that interview, or he would find ways to distract me. (“Try to get the word ‘Arkansas’ into this interview,” for instance.)”

Unfortunately, though, John has had moments where he couldn’t combat his anxiety on his own. “Nat and I always joke about this one time in Brazil when I literally lost consciousness for a few seconds (or at least awareness) and asked for a question to be repeated and then said in a small voice, ‘I’m sorry but I’m having a panic attack,’ and then Nat answered the question for me,” John wrote. “There were a few moments like that, but mostly I was able to get through it.”

Another Redditor asked John’s advice for helping a loved one with anxiety, and John gave another simple, honest answer: “Honestly the most helpful thing someone who loved me ever said was, ‘I am not a professional. I cannot make this better. Look at the science. All the studies show the way to manage this is with medication, exercise, and therapy. You have to go to the doctor. I will help you get to the doctor, but you have to go.’”

The issues surrounding the representation of mental health in society and popular culture is so, so pervasive, but when majorly influential people step up and talk about it, we crumble that wall one brick at a time. The only way to destigmatize mental health is to make it part of the conversation. As always, we thank John for his openness and honesty.

(Images via Instagram.)

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