Howie Mandel on Advocating for Mental Health


Comedian, and Actor Howie Mandel has dealt with ADHD, Depression, and OCD for most of his life. In an interview he wants to make mental health as common as dental care. “We take care of our physical health and even our dental health, but we don’t take care of our mental health,” Howie knows that information will empower people who are suffering from mental health issues. Howie wants us to erase the stigma around depression and other mental health conditions. Having dealt with them for all of his life and many years not understanding what and why he was the way he was. In the 60’s when he was growing up there was no explanation for it even in the 70’s when I was in school. ADHD was not a thought. Both of us had similar experiences and struggled in school.

Howie said he had trouble focusing in school and I struggled with being hyper focused and not knowing what was going on around me. But if it is hard to be part of the group and set and follow along with the class it is then it is also hard to not to feel isolated from the group. Both of us felt that. He talks about being teased and that leaving him unsettled. The ridicule from classmates made us both feel even more isolated.

Now, both of us were lucky in that we had family support and love. He says because his parents accepted his differences it helped him manage his depression. He also learned at an early age he enjoyed being the center of attention by making people laugh. “My mother got my sense of humor, even when I was a kid. I would just do things that tickled my fancy in the moment, and she would ask me who I was entertaining. and I’d say, ‘Well, me,’” Howie recalls in his 2009 memoir Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me. So starting with an amateur night at a club Howie realized making people laugh helped him to feel good and he felt calmer when on stage. He has been doing comedy since the 1970’s. He was in the Emmy- nominated series Bobby’s World in the 1990’s As well as being on America’s Got Talent and Deal or No Deal.

The first time he reported his problems “…I told Howard Stern on the air that I had a serious mental [health] issue and was seeing a therapist was like revealing my biggest, darkest secret,” Mandel recalls. “I remember leaving the studio feeling anxious and wondering what the consequences of my admission would be. Would anyone hire me? How would this affect my wife and kids?”

Mandel has lobbied on Capitol Hill to intensify recognition of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. He advocates for programs where time was set aside each day for the children to express their thoughts and worries to a professional counselor; like one at a school his son attended in California.

“Not only do children need to be assessed for mental health, but an overall system needs to be implemented to benefit every American, through every stage of their life.” That is what I am here. I am working to provide you with the tools and processes to help you improve your mental health.

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