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Dan Howell: Being open about my mental health forced me to confront my sexuality

The YouTube star gets frank about facing his inner demons in the Attitude November issue, out now.

2020-10-07

Words: Thomas Stichbury

Dan Howell delivered his message loudly, proudly and very clearly when he posted the video ‘Basically I’m Gay’ last year – clocking up over 11 million views in the process.

In the Attitude November issue, out now to download and to order globally, the YouTube star and fomer BBC Radio 1 DJ says he would not have had the confidence to come out if he hadn’t publicly opened up about his mental health first.

“My niche has always been making fun of myself and it’s crazy to think that I uploaded a YouTube video 10 years ago for no reason, just trying to be funny on the internet, talking about the fact [that] I’m a butter fingers,” Dan, 29, begins.

Dan Howell opens up about his mental health and coming out journey in the Attitude November issue, out now

“[Then] one day I realised I was struggling with depression and I thought for a long time, am I going to share this? I didn’t want to be judged… Are people going to want to work with me? Are friends going to ice me out?

“People liked it more. They were like, ‘This is funnier because you’re talking about real s***,’” he exclaims.

The response gave Dan the nudge he needed to deal with another demon he had long been wrestling with: his sexuality.

Dan wears jacket by All Saints, vest by Marks & Spencer (Photography: Markus Bidaux)

“I knew I was obviously not straight my whole life… [the video] was for the first time acknowledging this truth about myself and, in working out what my own story was, I had to confront all these aspects of my life that I hadn’t dealt with before", he explains.

“I started this wild process that involved coming out to my family, coming out to my friends, burning some bridges… I put it out there into the world in the most huge way possible… I don’t know if it’s just the cynicism from having [had] a traumatising queer childhood, but I was shocked by how nice the reception was.”

In his initial coming out video – which was shared, fittingly enough, during Pride month – Dan delves into the difficulties he faced growing up, including an attempt to take his own life as a teenager.

“I felt like I knew the world and I knew my place in it, and I felt like I had nowhere else to go and it was my only option to escape. I was so wrong because every single minute of my life that passed as I got older, the world got so big and so open,” he explains.

“The one thing to say to anybody that feels like they’re stuck in any kind of situation is, ‘You are never stuck, you might think you know everything, that there’s nothing left, but there is a whole world out there, full of love and opportunity.”

Dan, who is set to release mental health book/self-help guide You Will Get Through This Night in May 2021, stresses the importance of being open with friends and loved ones – indeed, he insists he never would have come to terms with being gay if his fans hadn’t been so candid with him.

Dan wears jacket by All Saints, vest by Marks & Spencer (Photography: Markus Bidaux)

“I would meet them [at my shows] and they would come out to me in front of their friends and family: ‘Dan, because you talk about being authentic and you opened up about your mental health, you gave me the strength to do so,’” he adds.

“I was still in the closet [at the time]. I was stood there as people were telling me these amazing things and I felt like a hack.

"If it wasn’t for seeing these people and them telling me these positive, encouraging stories, there is no way that I would ever have had the courage to go on this journey.”

Read the full interview in the Attitude November issue, out now to download and to order globally.

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