Chris Wood might be known best for his roles on The CW, but “The Vampire Diaries” actor is also the founder of a mental health campaign, which inspires conversations and provides resources for those in need. As part of his activism towards mental health awareness, the actor and filmmaker recently partnered with Mental Health Awareness to put on a summit including stars like Rainn Wilson and Jewel.
Over the weekend, Wood spearheaded the event, “Our Future in Mind,” which featured conversations with leaders in school-based mental health policy, disability justice, athletics and intersectionality.
Wood, best known for his roles on “Vampire Diaries,” “Containment” and “Supergirl,” has been open about his own struggles with mental health.
“The pandemic was a bit of pressure cooker for our collective mental health. We all struggled at the same moment, which actually allowed the conversation to open up,” Wood tells Variety. “That’s good. But now we need to steer the conversation. We need to take this engagement and turn it into activism.”
In his own personal journey with mental health, Wood says that things began to look up for him when he stopped lying to himself and was finally honest about his well-being. “Admitting that I wasn’t okay, that I needed help,” he says. “That was everything.”
With that self discovery, Wood started IDONTMIND, a campaign to encourage open conversations about mental health.
“Even though we all have mental health, and it touches all of us at some point in our lives, mental health is still stigmatized,” Wood says. “And the system still fails people. There’s still massive work to be done in making life better for people living with mental illness. But a big step in the right direction is getting people talking about it, and making it more okay to ask for help.”
The event featured conversations with Wilson, Jewel, Tati Gabrielle, Zelda Williams, Antonia Gentry, Zaire Franklin and Zelda Barnz. Key points included were fighting loneliness, using social media, sports and the planet’s influence on one’s mental health journey.
On one of the panels, actor and activist Wilson spoke of his own experience. “I suffered with crippling anxiety attacks throughout my twenties. They would leave me on the floor, sweating in a puddle, crying. No idea what they were. I just kind of suffered through them,” Wilson confided. “I’ve been through tremendous bouts of depression.”
After speaking on his struggles, Wilson talked about his form of healing. “Focusing on gratitude is an incredible superpower,” he said. “Gratitude helps us shift our perspective from fear to bounty and light. Its benefits are incalculable.”
The summit was born out of findings from a recent study from Mental Health America, which Wood shares showed that young people want to get involved in mental health, but don’t know where to begin.
“I get that. I felt the same way before I started IDONTMIND,” he says. “This summit was intended to give people the connections, tools and information to jumpstart that process.”
“The biggest barrier to advocacy isn’t interest — we have plenty of that. It’s inaction. Taking action, connecting with organizations, finding out what you can do to help and then doing it, that is what advocacy is,” Wood adds. “Hopefully we shortened the distance between those two things, so that potential advocates feel empowered to become active champions for mental health.”
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