THE BLOG
27/03/2015 11:23 GMT | Updated 26/05/2015 06:59 BST

My Mental Illness Inspired My Ambition to Fix Other Young People's Minds

Hello, my name's Danny and I am a selfie addict. At least, that's how the press have dubbed me. I became headline news last year for 'taking 200 selfies in a day', trying to create the perfect image. When I failed, I tried to kill myself, they reported. That's not untrue, but the far bigger picture is that I was suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or body dysmorphia, if you prefer. If you've never heard of BDD, the NHS explains it, in a nutshell, thus: Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.

I'd always wanted to be a model and I WAS optimistic that I could achieve that dream - that was until I went to see an agency at the age of 15 and was told I was fat. I remember feeling emptiness, a sense that I was no good for modelling - or, for that matter, society. I made a decision to change myself. I was no longer happy, or confident with my appearance. When I looked in the mirror, all I could see was a big nose, bad skin and an overweight figure. As time went on I became obsessed with the mirror, checking it up to 10 hours a day. Exercising, purging and applying face creams became an addiction I couldn't quit. The long days of constant mirror checking and taking 200 photos a day drove me to the lowest point of my life.

One night, it all became too much. I locked my room and screamed. I felt so lonely, I had no friends and I was falling behind with my studies. I remember looking at Facebook and seeing people living, while I was trapped; paralysed by my body dysmorphia.

So I overdosed.

I survived (obviously!). The whole event put everything into perspective; I wanted to be happy again and I wanted to beat body dysmorphia. I got help from a hospital in London, which treated my mental illness. Thanks to that I am still here - and able to now share my story, to encourage other people to seek help.

My story first came to light in the media when I made a film about my experience for social action charity Fixers - it exploded across the press and I've since travelled across the world to share my story on TV shows and in international press. You can view the film here.

I feel passionately about changing the way society views mental health - and I believe the media has a huge responsibility in shaping that. I understand that dubbing me a 'selfie addict' ensured more people would click on my story, but it simplified a very serious and complex mental health issue. Factions of the media look too negatively on mental health. Some TV shows portray it poorly. I want to see an end to storylines which stop people with mental-health issues reaching out for help because they are scared of the stigma.

Recently I was chosen to join a panel of young mental health campaigners for a national debate on the big issues, hosted by Fixers, and part of their Feel Happy Fix Live 2015 event. You can watch it tonight at 8pm here.

I think it's wonderful that young people can get together as a collective and tackle the issue of mental health. It's an incredibly hard thing to talk about, so creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to open up is amazing.

As for me and my BDD, things are going well; career-wise I'm enjoying working in politics - and want to put mental health on the agenda. Mental illness is the hardest thing I have ever gone through and having the chance to make a better future for others is hugely important to me.

If you've been affected by the issues in this article, please call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.