This Ottawa Youtuber Opens Up About How He Balances Mental Health With His Success
"There's so much power to YouTube and people are using it in such a negative way now"
Youtuber Joey Kidney is very open with his audience about topics regarding mental health. He chooses to share his darkest moments and promotes starting conversations about mental health. He has lived in Ottawa through his life and struggles daily with anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
He shares his personal stories through his YouTube channel which has over 600,000 subscribers. Joey consistently creates unique videos about a range of topics. In addition to his main channel, he also has a vlogging channel, a podcast, creates music, and he also sells his own merchandise.
We sat down with Joey to talk about how he began on YouTube, how his life has changed, mental health, and his favourite thing to do in our city.
1. When and why did you decide to start your YouTube channel?
I started YouTube when I was 16 years old. I hadn't watched any YouTube videos ever at that time and I had no idea what it was. I posted a video called "Introducing Me" which isn't up anymore. I created the video to talk about those videos people used to make holding up cue cards about their depression or anxiety. I hated those videos. I needed to prove my point using video to verbalize myself rather than just write it down. So I made a video explaining why it's important to speak and verbalize rather than just writing things down on a card.
I started the video by saying "Hi my name's Joey Kidney and I'm just as f*cked up as you are". After I posted the video it blew up in my school and I got called into the guidance councillor's office. I was freaking out at the time wondering what I did cause I was a good kid at that time. The councillor sat me down and said "whatever you're doing keep doing it" and I said "what do you mean?". They told me "people are coming into the office saying your name and saying that you're helping them". After this I decided to keep going.
2. When did you realize you were starting to grow an audience? Did that scare you at all?
My first video got 2,000 views which rarely happens on a first video. I was super sceptical and wondered what I was doing, but I just kept going. And then one video I made hit 1 million views and I was like "Oh", then I got 100,000 subscribers and I was surprised again thinking "oh, I don't know what to do". After this my manager reached out to me and he came in to make everything seem ok.
I didn't really have the scare. One day my life just changed and I don't exactly know if it was for the good or not. I never had a peak of getting a million views and then being "famous", I don't want that, I like gradual and continuous growth.
3. Obviously it’s impacted you positively and negatively, can you talk about that a little?
So when it comes to the positives there is a backstory. I grew up a very outgoing kid. In grade 5, with my ADHD when I was asked a question I had to get up and walk to answer it. I had to go to the principle's office everyday, I only had 22 recesses in the whole year so I kept thinking "what is wrong with me". So then I became this super good kid, but being that good kid made me become very shy. I started YouTube when I was 16, so around 11th grade. In grade 12 I decided to be more outgoing. You're recording yourself so you have to have that self confidence in order to put yourself out there.
The negative to that, is that you are allowing people to judge you, millions of people are able to judge you. That was kind of terrifying. The worst things for me are compliments, if I get a compliment, it just means nothing to me because I walk outside that door and put my phone away, nobody is going to tell me I'm "perfect" or that I "look so hot today". Nobody is saying that in person and we just have to remember that. I feel like people can get a little big headed no matter what you do.
There's so much power to YouTube and people are using it in such a negative way now. It gets me so mad. For example the Logan Paul and Jake Paul situation, they had such a good thing going, whether you liked their videos or not, they were so good and giving kids something to come home to and watch. Then they just completely lost themselves in it and they let their ego get to them which sucks. I'm someone who sees the bad guys side to understand why someone did something. I tried vlogging every single day and it doesn't matter the amount of views, it's just so toxic to edit your life everyday. Cause then you start to live for your vlog, which sounds so dumb because it is dumb. I feel like Casey Neistat made it a really cool thing and then people just took it and ran with it.
4. Are there any specific YouTubers that you look up to and that inspire you?
To be honest I don't watch too many YouTubers because I find that if I watch them I get influenced by them and then I don't create my own stuff. You see a lot of people try to make a David Dobrik-style of video or a Casey Neistat-style video, you get lost in it. So I don't watch to much YouTube, but I look up to Will Darbyshire. There's a genre on YouTube called Fake Deep, so I can sit here and go deep on something simple like my yellow phone case with a huge back story. That's the style of video that Will does, he's inspired me so much. I went through a phase where I was creating videos just like him for a very long time and I was realized "this is cool, but this isn't me".
I also like Casey Neistat's style of showing his life in a way that's not intoxicating, not ruining your own life, and keeping it still personal while making it all look cool. Sometimes he doesn't do anything special, but he makes it look cool. Then I'll watch a David Dobrik video where he's just having fun with friends and I also watch Kian and JC cause they're just having so much fun and it's so positive.
5. You’re super open about mental health on your channel, which a lot of people shy away from. What made you decide to be so open about it?
My first video was about mental health, but it's not up right now. A lot of people think you need to talk about it, you don't need to, it's if you want to. It shouldn't even be a question of wanting to or not, it's just conversation and I think that's why people are so scared to talk about it, when really it's just things like "how are you today?". It's that question but going 1 step further.
Every time someone says "good", it's just starting a conversation that's a little deeper. I do this on baristas all the time, when they say they're good I ask them "what the heck is good? There are over 100 flavours of ice cream and you choose vanilla when you say good, no. Tell me how you are?". It's just going that extra step, so it's really not that hard. People are making this huge deal about mental health, when really it's just conversation that we all need. It has always interested me how people think and how people feel, if you cry in-front of me right now, I will not shed a tear, cause I'm more interested in why you're crying and what triggered it.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people just tweet a hashtag, no f*cking hashtag has ever done something. I do believe in #BellLetsTalk because they are giving money to programs. But just tweeting doesn't do anything. So you get people who aren't doing anything and just tweeting a hashtag thinking they're solving the "problem".
People think you need a problem in order to care, but mental health is not a problem so we should always care.
6. Have you ever regretted starting your YouTube channel, even with your success?
Yes, every single day. I think you always need to question what you're doing. It's like a hump day, you go up and you go down. Throughout my entire career there have been so many ups and downs. From the adpocalypse on the business side of things then there's your mental state of mind which is a totally different part of YouTube.
I've always questioned it cause I grew up playing hockey and I was planning furthering in that career, but then I broke my leg and got concussions which made me understand mental health more which lead me to YouTube. I always think what life would I have had if I didn't get injured and where I would be now. I appreciate where I am, but I always regret because it truly changed my life.
It's made me work hard to be humble, I know that sounds horrible, but I want to take the bus everyday cause I want to see people. I almost went back to school this year not cause of learning, but because I wanted see people everyday and be in an environment where I'm not just a privileged kid. I never grew up a privileged kid, my parents were below average, so I've never had any form of success in my life which is terrifying.
7. With your job, you’re basically on social media 24/7. How do you balance the pressure of always looking ‘perfect’ and taking a break when you feel overwhelmed?
I hate my phone, I seriously hate my phone. If I get 3 notifications from the same person especially, my phone is being thrown. There are so many things happening at every time of the day, it's very overwhelming. It's hard to take your breaks and you have to understand when you need to take your breaks. Cause then you realize that you're addicted to your phone and you think "holy sh*t I don't know what to do anymore". And I know that I am, I'm addicted to something I hate, which is even worse. Keeping your personal life off of social media and keeping that private helps a lot. Cause then you have your privacy.
To balance it I go for runs all the time, I go to the beach all the time, and you have to make time for your friends. If you're sitting there waiting for somebody to text you, nobody is going to f*cking text you. When we're waiting around for something it doesn't happen. So create a schedule for yourself where you get out of your house. You have to go outside, when you don't you may find yourself depressed and looking at your phone waiting for something to happen. You have to create your own balance. So getting outside and spending time with friends, I have friends that hate the camera so I hang out with them when I don't want to do any work. Some of my other friends don't mind and I can get away with a night out and post about it.
8. Have you ever felt like people treated you differently because of your large following?
Growing up I was the butterfly kid, I had friends in ever type of friend group. I wouldn't call it popularity cause keep in mind I was super shy, but I had a friend in every group even though I was shy. But getting rid of friends is very hard and understanding you can get rid of toxic friends is important. I just made a video about toxic friends and in my video I listed off friends who came into my mind and I said that if I didn't list someone's name it's because you haven't called me in a while. Going from high school to college to living where I live, I have lost a lot of friends and a lot of them don't even think I live in Ottawa anymore.
There's a lot of people who try to use you. I used to be the "yes-man", but you have to think business in the aspect that time is money. If I go to the club sometimes I am approached with a business idea and I try to schedule a call with them to talk about the details. You have to realize what's business and what's not. When you're hanging out with friends and someone is pitching me an idea, you need to find a balance. I only have 4 or 5 friends right now and they don't care about YouTube. You have to have your staple friends. My friends care about me more than they care about my job.
9. People often say that YouTuber’s should ‘get a real job’, this is obviously crazy. As someone who works hard, what would you say to these people?
As I travel the world and film it, while getting paid they can enjoy their time in an office job working for someone else. That's what I can say to them. In the nicest way possible I would say that I work a lot harder than your average 9 to 5 worker, I am working 24/7, it's about consistency, immediacy, if there's a story we share it.
I don't even just have a YouTube channel I have 2, I have a podcast, music, merchandise, there's so much going on, people just don't understand that it's more than filming a video and putting it up. It's good that people think that cause they're the ones paying us when they watch it so that's okay (a little sassy but that's good).
10. You’re someone that loves the outdoors and staying active, would you say that staying active helps you with your mental health?
One hundred percent. If I don't go for a walk each day, my day sucks. People have to work out their heart, if you go to the gym and just do weights that may not be enough. You have to go outside, breath in the air, and get outside of your comfort zone. Letting your entire body breath a little bit is super important. Being active releases positive endorphins into your brain that make you happier. I had a lot of concussions growing up and I spent 122 days in a black room so I'm huge on water and after being in a black room I really appreciate going outside cause now I'm able to.
During the winter is the hardest time. I have seasonal depression and I get it a lot more in the winter, it's horrible. Especially living in Ottawa during the winter, our days end at 3 pm. I really recommend simple things like opening up a window or taking a quick walk to the grocery store, just make sure you smell the air. Another important thing is seeing people and meeting up with your friends.
Music is also a huge thing you can use, have a playlist that wakes you up by starting soft and then going hard. Then you're ready to conquer your day, you get up you eat well, you still have to workout. I'll do a 100 day challenge of 100 push ups a day, I know it sounds crazy, but it's really not that hard. You have to adapt to where you live. Even little things like setting your alarm off across the room so it forces you to get out of bed. I know it's exhausting and you may have some days when you go out and throw off your routine, but that's ok, take a few days off.
11. What is your #1 advice for people who feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, whether that’s with depression, their future, or just life in general?
This changes everyday, but right now my biggest piece of advice is "what's the rush?". I've been up and been down and I've been in the position where I don't want to wake up in the morning, but I think "why? Why am I so quick to finish this". A lot of people can't answer that question. You wake up and think "ugh I really don't want to live today"and if you're questioning your life, why? Why are you so rushed to be gone?
I took all of my anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts and I asked myself why and I try to understand myself, rather than just going out there to solve this "problem" (it's not a problem), I wanted to understand my mental health so I can wake up and know how to solve this. I have anxiety attacks everyday and you can't tell. I had hair loss, I had a urination problem, I had a problem where I would get a bloody nose whenever I was anxious, and after all of these things I just think alright, cool that happens and my body was like "why isn't he freaking out" and it's because I ask myself why.
I just made a video about suicide after the Kate Spade tragedy. And in it I said if you want to get help, do it. I'm not here to give you certain tips to save your life because I don't know if they will. I'm here to give you an opportunity to help and make a community to help you, I'm not here to save someone's life, I'm here to have someone save their own life. I want somebody to wake up every single day and save themselves, not need anybody else.
12. Lastly, for someone who wants to visit Ottawa, what’s your favourite thing to do in the city?
My favourite thing right now is going to the beach and let's be real it's not a beach, I'm so scared to go in the water, but it's nice to be there and be around people. As Canadians we only have 3 months out of the year to go outside and enjoy the sun.
I also love going to all of the cafes we have in the city. There are so many now. There are so many things that happen everyday, you just have to know about them. This week is Glowfair and you can go see performances for free, Ottawa is not boring unless you make it boring. You can have lunch on the grass of Parliament Hill, there's not many places you can do that. You can go to Gatineau for a hike or kayaking at Dow's lake, there are so many things.