From My Perspective: Daniel Howell
Author, entertainer and comedian
What aspect of your career has most surprised you?
The power all of us have to impact others. Before I first spoke about mental health, people would say how the silliest light entertainment I made would lift them up on dark days. This is a power every one of us has, being there for – and being open to – those close to us.
What one measure would improve the nation’s mental health?
Normalising that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s not weird to be worried; you shouldn’t be ashamed of being stressed and if you’re depressed, you aren’t crazy or broken – it’s a universal experience! If everyone understood how everything in our lives affects how we
feel and the power we have to influence it, we would save so much time wasted suffering in silence.
Who’s your own mental health guru?
I had to learn to be that person for myself the hard way. There was no guru or helpful book that popped up in front of me when I hit a wall. I was forced to ask myself: why am I not okay and what can I do about it? You Will Get Through This Night is the book I wish I could have read years ago.
How have you coped with lockdown?
As a bizarre introvert I was probably built for it more than some party friends of mine, but everyone has a limit. I never thought I’d be desperate to hug a random stranger in a sweaty club at 3am, yet here we are. I bought loads of houseplants and put my entire emotional and spiritual burden into maintaining them. Admittedly, it led to an inevitable existential crisis when I overwatered a bonsai to death and wondered what I was even good for.
Have you got a message of hope for the UK’s depressed young people?
Things will change. Life is short and we’ve only got one, so we need to make the most of it – but it’s also incredibly long and boring in the moment. This is good as it means that your circumstances will inevitably change over time and feelings are temporary!
If you could ask any six people to lunch, who would they be?
Probably the cast of Friends so I can pretend like I have some for a minute.
If you could have a second career – doing anything – what would it be?
There’s an alternate timeline somewhere where I’m a lawyer. I feel like I’m good at making an argument, but I’m also clearly very chaotic and accident-prone so I’d have definitely caused a few international legal incidents by now.
Who was your idol growing up?
What keeps you awake at night?
That sudden bolt of anxiety about whatever I’m worried about – framed in the most catastrophically negative way you could ever imagine. I then listen to my own advice and try to work out. I just need to re-read my book once a week.
What topic doesn’t get enough media coverage?
How teachers and schools are undertrained and underfunded when it comes to mental health and dealing with issues such as sexuality. Every school should have a counsellor to be the potentially life saving tether for any student who needs it. I’d probably force everyone to do a “mental health” class and see a therapist for an hour every week.
Who, or what, is the love of your life?
Food. Yeah, I just really love food. It’s the only thing that motivates me. I literally enjoy nothing more in life than just eating something really delicious. Food is great.
Does writing come easily, or is it a chore?
When I get into it, it flows pretty easily like a dam of me-thinking-I’m-funny bursting. The hard part is the planning. I spent months last year planning the skeleton of this book: the structure, the topics, how in depth to go, what I’d say about my own life. I’m the world’s worst procrastinating perfectionist banging my head against the wall, but it all comes together.
How do you spend your days off?
Eating, playing video games, looking at hot people on Instagram and feeling bad about myself which is also contradictory to my own advice.
What’s your fondest memory?
Going on tour and meeting the people who watch my “online” stuff and hearing what it’s meant to them. My whole life has been “likes” and numbers, so to see that this weird world I created from a camera and a laptop manifested in reality, made me feel it’s all been worthwhile.
If you could prescribe one feel-good movie, what would it be?
Shrek. It is literally just great.
What one thing would you do to help the environment?
I’m trying (better than previous attempts) to be completely plant-based, but also shop with brands that try to reduce waste as much as possible. There’s a lot of weird compostable packaging that smells like sheep in my apartment.
What do you enjoy most about making your YouTube videos?
Expressing my opinions, or working through the trauma of my various zany life incidents through “jokes”, while connecting and entertaining people around the world. I’m grateful my “journey” of working out who the hell I am and what I’m about, in real time online, has been there for others to see.
Daniel’s new book about mental health “You Will Get Through This Night” (Harper Collins, £14.99) is out now in hardback, ebook and audio download