Actor Chris Sullivan (aka Toby from 'This is Us') talks about his real-life mental health struggles

Today, as soon as the clock struck 5, I was out the door - rushing home from work.

No, there wasn't an emergency. It was because, of course, NBC's "This is Us" returned after a two-month hiatus on Tuesday. I don't have cable and, sadly, my old-school TV antenna picks up every local channel EXCEPT NBC! So, I had to wait until today to watch on Hulu.

After watching this week's episode, I apparently didn't go through enough emotional turmoil and decided that I wanted more. So, to fulfill my continued "This is Us" craving, I decided to listen to the latest To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) podcast featuring none other than actor Chris Sullivan as the special guest!

If the name Chris Sullivan doesn't ring a bell, you would surely recognize the name Toby - the character who Chris plays on "This is Us." Prior to the mid-season premiere last night, Toby's Season 3 story line centered around his severe depression. Recently, Chris sat down with TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski to talk about his own, real-life mental health struggles and how they mirrored that of his character's.

“Surprisingly, my character on ‘This is Us’ goes through a lot of the same things I’ve been through as far as anxiety and depression are concerned,” Toby told Jamie during the interview. “I’m like my character in many ways as far as using comedy to keep people at arm’s length or using humor as an armor.”

The show not only opened up a dialogue about mental health among the audience but also for the actors. And, because of this, Chris started exploring his own history of mental illness.

"I realized how present it had been my entire life," he said.

Chris said his avoidance to acknowledge his own depression was one of the reasons he got into acting in the first place.

"I didn’t quite know how to handle my own feelings, so I got into the business of feeling other people’s feelings and exploring characters’ emotions," he said.

Chris compared his depression to his favorite genre of movies – horror films about demonic possession. He said, “In all of those movies, the only thing the hero has to do is learn the demon’s name. … As soon as they call the demon by his historic, biblical name, it is sent back to the bowels of hell.”

He said the same was true of his mental illness. As soon as he had a name for it and started to talk about it, his depression suddenly began to dissipate.

"Just having the conversation is 90 percent of the work," Chris said. "I started exploring the darker feelings in myself, acknowledging them and, therefore, learning how to deal with them."

Chris became connected with the organization TWLOHA through his involvement with the Tomorrow Needs You Campaign. The goals of TWLOHA and this campaign are to encourage honest conversations about suicide and help connect people worldwide to local mental health resources.

"800,000 people die by suicide each year," said Chris. "I just lost a friend (to suicide). ... It’s a very important conversation we all need to be having right now, a conversation we all avoid because of the ‘shame’ of the topic."

The annual Tomorrow Needs You Campaign was the brainchild of Jamie Tworkowski, and he said, "Suicide takes away the possibility of tomorrows filled with healing, change, love, joy, connection, and community. Those possibilities are worth fighting for, they’re worth every ounce of our attention and energy. And you are worth fighting for."

To listen to the full interview between Chris and Jamie, visit

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