The Today Show host has teamed up with Project Healthy Minds to help break the stigma of mental illness

By Mia McNiece
March 04, 2021 09:00 AM
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Carson Daly never planned to talk publicly about his struggles with mental health. 

But that changed for the Today Show host, 47, when NBA player Kevin Love came on the show to share his story about having a panic attack during a basketball game. Daly realized he had had the exact same experience many years ago while hosting MTV's Total Request Live— and became inspired to open up about his own mental health journey.

"I've suffered for over 20 years with, at times, debilitating anxiety and panic, and never knew it. I never knew how to define it," says Daly. "After finally opening up to friends, one of them had a history of anxiety, and looked at me and was like, 'You have anxiety.' "

For more on Carson Daly, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

carson daly and family
Carson Daly with wife Siri and their kids
| Credit: Gigi DeBoer

The father of four underwent a 14-week cognitive therapy course and began to educate himself about his mental illness, eventually learning how to manage it.

"It felt so good to get that diagnosis, because for so long I would be driving in my car and start to get nervous and wonder if I should pull over. And now I know, 'Oh, this is happening, and wait 10 seconds and it will go away.'  Being diagnosed and then talking about it just feels good," he says.

Daly is now working to help others struggling with mental illness and has joined forces with Project Healthy Minds.

"It's a great non-profit organization with a diverse group of people who are coming together to try and help break the stigma of mental health and also help people have access to resources through technology," says Daly. "Anyone can use their phone to find a 7-Eleven and get a Slurpee within seconds, so these tools need to be used in the same way to help people find the mental health resources they need. We're now working on building out that technology."

Daly hopes that by sharing his story, he can help others.

"It bothers me that anybody could feel that they're less than normal if they also have something about them that they're unsure about as it pertains to their mental health. It doesn't have to be anxiety. It can be depression, it could be PTSD, or any number of things. I want to hold their hand and go, 'It's okay to not be okay.' "

If you or someone you know need mental health help, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.