TikTok's Rod Thill Dives Into the Importance of Mental Health

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Rod Thill

To say that the pandemic forced us all to confront our own processes of dealing with emotional turmoil would be an understatement. As we approach the two year anniversary of the onset of a world of quarantine, I sat down with Rod Thill—who you may just know as Rod.

To make sense out of a world that didn’t make sense, Rod turned to an unexpected outlet: the rapidly-expanding, gen-Z-dominated social media platform TikTok. His brand of work from home-based humor and sketches catapulted him to internet stardom throughout the past year and change, but aside from the notoriety, Rod’s work has allowed him to destigmatize the still taboo world of men’s mental health, all the while helping him soothe his own anxiety.

Rod's Genesis

Rod’s TikTok exploits actually comprised his first dive into the world of social media at a large scale; as an avid Vine fan (as many of us in the more millennial-leaning demographic are), the emergence of TikTok in the early pandemic seemed a nostalgic homage to a world Rod knew all too well. He had taken a peek into the app in late 2019, but fell off until quarantine hit in the beginning of 2020. As many of us were relegated to home desks, couches and other non-ideal work milieu, Rod saw an opportunity to start creating content around the WFH world many of us were experiencing. It was around October of 2020 that he honed in on the subject, after one of his videos had popped off. 

“That was weird. Let’s try it again,” he jokes to me about his reaction to the first viral video. He tried again and tried again, and today has amassed a whipping 1.3 million followers on TikTok alone. He was recently on Drew Barrymore’s show, frequently lands major sponsorship deals and is able to now rely on his social persona as his primary income—although he still works part time in the sales world he WFHed in. Rod has also partnered with orgs like the Jed Foundation to help spread awareness surrounding the plagues of dwindling mental health, building on the driving ethos of so much of his content.

The Destigmatization of Men's Mental Health

When the views of his videos began to skyrocket, Rod started to see that the experiences he was having—the discomfort he was steeping in—was not unique to just him. “Creating these videos helped me feel more seen. It’s been therapeutic in a way,” he adds. The pandemic forced many of us to confront feelings of isolation and lack of connection, and in creating a series of beloved videos based on a shared experience, Rod helped himself—and his viewers—feel a little bit more together. 

“At first, it was feeling seen. But larger picture, it’s shown me that I can do more than I think I can,” he tells me, adding: “It’s shown me that I can push my limit. Nothing surprises me anymore.” And as someone who has made a career out of pulling back the curtain on anxiety and mental illness, Rod is uniquely positioned to share some advice with his followers about how to best articulate how folks can set themselves up for their mental wellbeing.

It’s shown me that I can push my limit. Nothing surprises me anymore.

- Rod Thill

“Therapy’s first. Everyone can use therapy,” Rod tells me, something I agree with wholeheartedly. He and I digress for a bit about how there has been a longstanding taboo around therapy, with many people—especially men—viewing therapy as a means to an end. Someone is in therapy because something’s wrong and it needs to be fixed. In reality, therapy can be helpful for any and all of us. “It’s an unbiased opinion, someone removed from your life that you can be open and honest with,” Rod explains. “Everyone’s mental health journey is so unique,” he adds, so finding the right process will differ for everyone.

Rod’s Advice for the Corporate World and Burgeoning Creators

“I’ve always been a creature of rise and grind culture,” Rod tells me, before peppering in the fact that he has never had a day of unemployment since he graduated college in 2012—even overlapping two jobs at the same time for a period. But this experience hasn’t fostered a belief that an all-work mentality is healthy—or even the most productive. 

First of all, when hiring, it’s important to “understand that everyone is different.” Rod feels that managers often try to hire and rehire the same candidate repeatedly for a role, instead of “viewing everyone as an individual who has individual likes and needs.” Everyone has a different relationship to work and their processes of producing, so we should treat each other like individuals. “Bosses viewing their employees as individuals is just so, so major."

Rod and I also spend a bit of time discussing recent studies that have shown the promising results of 4-day work weeks and increased maternity/paternity leave, demonstrating that productivity is not innately tied to hours spent in an office. The pandemic is another case study of this phenomenon. Detractors of remote work decried the move throughout 2020, saying that it would send productivity diving towards record lows, when in reality, no such boogie man arose. “Why would you not want an employee who’s working at peak performance?” he poses.

Take a leap. Be impulsive.

- Rod Thill

Rod’s advice for managing your mental health and becoming a successful content creator go entirely hand in hand. “Take a leap. Be impulsive,” he tells me, adding, “See how you can surprise yourself.” This advice is so similar to some of his encouragements surrounding improving mental health, and that’s because they’ve been linked for his personal journey, and certainly may be for others. He also adds—with a caveat apology for how cliched it is—that people should “try one new thing every day.” Whether the new thing improves your mental health, reduces a sense of isolation, or even just becomes a fun hobby, it seems like we can’t afford not to. 

The Future:

Rod has had an absolutely immense year, so he rightfully deserves a little time off, telling me that one of his goals for the coming months is to “just take a break. This year has been insane.” But a break for Rod also includes producing a forthcoming podcast, “a couple fun series coming up that’ll be a little different from what I’ve made,” and finally: “always content.”

The forthcoming podcast, entitled Millenial-Made, will feature Rod interviewing guests in an audio-visual format. “Each episode has a guest, a lot of nostalgia, and conversations about mental health.” The podcast, which he is making with Dear Media, is expected to release some time in early 2022.

Rod also teases the possibility of starting to produce more fashion-related content in the new year as well. He recently “Marie Kondo-ed his closet” and had also worked as a stylist for three years early in his career. I’m excited to see the integration of his commitment to the world of style in his future content.

Speaking to Rod was eye-opening, demonstrating how we can use comedy and levity to highlight societal woes that have gone unnoticed for too long. “I thought everything I was talking about, I was alone in," Rod tells me early in our conversation. Millions of followers later, it's clearer than ever that he was wrong.

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