The first time Howie Mandel spoke publicly about his mental health issues was after an interview on the Howard Stern show. Mandel had a panic attack trying to leave the studio. He blurted out that he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and needed someone to open the door for him or he would pass out. Afterwards, he realized that the show was still broadcasting.

He thought his life was over, but a man who recognized him came up and quietly said two words that changed Mandel’s life: “Me too.”

“It was the first time that I realized we all share this anxiety that we’re different,” comments Mandel.

Now a mental health advocate as well as a celebrity, Mandel offers these insights for coping with mental health issues.

Mediaplanet: How important do you think it is for people to seek treatment for mental health issues?

Howie Mandel: Extremely. It’s the way the world has to be. We need to take care of our mental health the way we take care of our dental health. You need to have the right coping skills.

MP: What advice would you give to teenagers who are having mental health issues?

HM: I would say to them that there is no one who doesn’t have some type of mental health issue, so don’t feel alone.
If you think you could use some tools to help you cope with something, then you’ve got to talk to somebody, and keep going until you find someone who will give you the coping skills you need. But seeking help is always worth it.

MP: What about parents who see their kids struggling, what advice do you have for them?

HM: Listen to your kids, talk to them, and see how they’re coping. Mental health issues don’t just go away and silence is our universal bandage. Issues can fester under that bandage and you have to rip it off to heal. If you see your kids struggling, help them get access to the coping strategies and resources they need.

MP: What is the one thing you think Canadians should know about mental health disorders?

HM: That it’s not a mental health disorder — it’s just mental health. We have to take care of our mental health. And no two people have the exact same health issues.

MP: Are there any misconceptions about ADHD, OCD, or other mental health issues that you feel need to be addressed?

HM: Having OCD or ADHD is normal. It’s as normal as having a physical ailment. People don’t look at someone and go, ‘Oh my god, he’s short-sighted.’ So there’s no need to judge ourselves and others. This is part of the human condition.

MP: Why do you think it’s important to break the stigma?

HM: We would be a more productive, happier, and overall better society if we took better care of something that is so precious and integral to everyone’s well-being.