You are not alone
It’s no surprise that mental health challenges have been a rising concern during the pandemic. COVID-19 has had a dramatic impact on mental well-being around the world, with increased incidence of mental health issues from anxiety, depression and stress, to substance use and self-harm. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, during the pandemic about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder.
Mental health issues can be debilitating and isolating, leaving you feeling like you don't know who to turn to, or that there isn't anyone who can understand what you are going through. The prospect of asking for help and exposing deeply personal experiences can further heighten the distress people feel in the moments when they most need help.
It’s so important to send the message to more people that they are not alone, and that if you're feeling depressed, lonely, or in crisis, there is someone on the other side of the phone to speak with.”
I’ve seen this firsthand through my work as a mental health hotline volunteer counselor. Over the past year, the volume of calls handled by our center has increased as people look for help to cope. And undoubtedly there are so many more people who need help but don’t know where to turn. That’s why it’s so important to send the message to more people that they are not alone, and that if you're feeling depressed, lonely, or in crisis, there is someone on the other side of the phone to speak with.
In my role at YouTube, my team builds products that help viewers navigate their health questions and interests online and discover credible and engaging video content. YouTube has shown crisis resource panels on sensitive search queries for many years, to connect people directly with organizations that are local, free, and confidential, to help them get through a moment of critical need. As I've experienced as a volunteer counselor time and time again, picking up the phone and asking for help can be scary and hard. We wanted to understand if there were ways to make it easier, and to communicate to our viewers that asking for help is okay and that we all need support from time to time. We have built out a number of updates to our crisis response panels to better connect with people, which will be rolling out in the coming weeks.
Increasing visibility of crisis resource panels
Growing up, I remember seeing hotline numbers on the doors of bathroom stalls and in bus stations. We’ve come a long way since then and many of these public spaces have moved online, especially during the pandemic, and that’s where we need to meet people.
Previously, YouTube’s crisis resource panels only appeared in search results. We’re now expanding them to show on the Watch Page as well, right under the video title. The Watch Page is where people spend most of their time on YouTube, which means a big increase in the visibility of these messages. The panels appear on the Watch Page below videos whose content is about suicide and self-harm, delivering a powerful combination of educational and emotionally resonant content alongside prompts to take action if needed.
Normalize getting help
Everyone needs help now and then. We wanted to make sure that the language and design in our panels reflect that. The new language emphasizes that services are free, confidential and available 24/7, and offers resources to call or chat a local support line.
Creators are important voices in the conversation about mental health, whether through sharing their own personal stories about managing or coping with a mental illness, or through helping to normalize talking about mental health and seeking help. We provide space for creators to talk about these issues, however we do not allow content on YouTube that promotes suicide, self-harm, or is intended to shock or disgust users, and we remove that content.
Show up across a broad range of topics
Previously, YouTube’s crisis resource panels only appeared next to searches related to suicide and self-harm. However, supporting our viewers’ mental health and wellbeing goes far beyond these issues. In fact, concerns like anxiety and depression are incredibly common and more than 50% of Americans will encounter some form of mental health disorder in their lifetime. To meet that need, in the US we are expanding the range of topics that display crisis resources in YouTube search results to issues like depression, sexual assault, substance abuse and eating disorders. This will ramp up in the US in the coming weeks, and we are working on rolling these changes out internationally in the coming months. We believe that connecting viewers to resources is incredibly important across the spectrum of mental health issues.
YouTube has always been a place where people can connect with others over shared experiences. It’s also a place where people come to learn and ask questions. That’s why mental health is a critical part of our health mission.”
YouTube has always been a place where people can connect with others over shared experiences. It’s also a place where people come to learn and ask questions. That’s why mental health is a critical part of our health mission — we want you to be able to find the information you need when you need it, whether that is immediate support in a crisis, educational content about your condition, or long-term coping strategies and personal stories of others.
Managing depression, anxiety and substance abuse can be lonely and isolating, whether you are experiencing these challenges yourself or supporting a loved one. You are not alone. If you or a loved one are struggling, there is help available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In the United States, you can get in touch with the Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or using the web chat service. Calls and chats are free and confidential.
Outside the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention to find a crisis center in your area.