British vlogger joins mental health charity Mind as digital ambassador and launches #DontPanicButton campaign
- theguardian.com, Thursday 9 October 2014 10.19 EDT
YouTube star Zoella – aka British vlogger Zoe Sugg – has already seen her online success spawn a book deal with Penguin and a guest-presenting slot on Radio 1. Now she’s also taking a role as digital ambassador for mental health charity Mind.
The news was announced as Sugg launched her #DontPanicButton campaign to raise awareness of anxiety and panic attacks in young people. It will encourage people to wear red buttons and upload photos to social networks using the hashtag to show their support.
Sugg is currently one of a handful of channels chosen for a TV, print and billboard advertising campaign in the UK paid for by YouTube, which is aiming to make its most popular stars household names beyond their online success.
Her new role won’t come as a surprise to Zoella’s fans, as she has spoken publicly about her own experience of panic attacks and anxiety, including a video posted in November 2012 that has been watched nearly 2.6m times, and a follow up Q&A in June 2014 that has more than 2m views.
“I know just how isolating it can feel to experience severe anxiety. However, the overwhelming response I’ve received every time I’ve spoken out online, shows just how many young people confront it every day,” said Sugg as her Mind role was announced.
“I am passionate about the need for everyone to feel ok to speak out, to talk to friends and family about what they’re going through, to ask for help. That’s why I’m thrilled to be taking on my new role as Digital Ambassador at Mind.”
Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer described Zoella as “an inspiration to many” with her willingness to talk about her battles with anxiety, adding that social media is an important channel for the charity to spread its messages.
“For many, the internet and social media can be a lifeline,” said Farmer. “By connecting people with similar experiences and providing access to information and support, the online world has a significant role to play increasing awareness about mental health problems.”
Zoella’s new role is part of a wider trend of popular YouTubers teaming up with charities to raise awareness and/or money.
Felix Kjellberg, whose PewDiePie channel is the most popular on YouTube, has raised more than $1m for Charity: Water, Save the Children and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through online fundraising campaigns.
Meanwhile, US-based YouTuber Tyler Oakley – one of Sugg’s fellow guest-presenters on Radio 1 – has worked for several years with The Trevor Project, a charity that works with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.