How Internet Spiritual Guru Teal Swan Targets Desperate People Online

Gif: Teal Swan (YouTube)

Warning: This post includes mentions of suicide and suicidal thoughts.

Teal Swan is a new brand of spiritual guru who uses YouTube videos to connect with her hundreds of thousands of followers. Gizmodo’s investigative podcast, The Gateway, examines the influence she has over these followers.

In last week’s episode, Swan said that she targets people who are struggling with depression. She was explicit in her explanation to Gizmodo.

“Most people are going through fucking huge crisis. Gun-to-your-head-type of crisis. And then you know they typed in something like ‘How do I not kill myself’ and my videos popped up,” Swan said. “I specifically try to go for tags and things like that that capture that audience. Because when you’re in a desperate state, it’s not sophisticated. People, when they’re in that state they type in shit like ‘I just lost my mother what the fuck do I do?’ Literally, that will be the Google tag line.”


When people do watch Swan’s videos, they’ll find that she’s usually in front of a trippy background, sharing her self-help teachings with a soothing, droning voice. These videos touch on hundreds of topics, ranging from cryptocurrency to relationships to internet addiction.

But many of these videos cover depression, hopelessness, and suicide. Swan embraces stigmatized topics that most self-help gurus don’t talk about. Gizmodo reached out to mental health experts to understand how much Swan’s messages could be helping or harming the people who watch her videos.

The latest episode of The Gateway includes interviews with April Foreman, a suicidologist who studies the intersection of suicide prevention and social media, and Steven Hassan, a mental health counselor who specializes in mind control.

Listen to part 4 of The Gateway to hear more about what they have to say about Teal’s teachings:

The Gateway is available wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, iHeart Radio, or TuneIn. Subscribe now, so you can hear the next episode as soon as its available next week.


You can also listen to new episodes one week early and ad-free on Stitcher Premium. For a free month of listening, go to and use promo code ‘GATEWAY’.

The Gateway is hosted by Jennings Brown, produced by Jessica Glazer and Emily Pontecorvo, and edited by Bari Finkel of Pineapple Street Media. Mandana Mofidi is the Fusion Media Group Executive Director of Audio. Editorial oversight provided by Kelly Bourdet. Original score and mixing by Hannis Brown. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please email us at


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

Former senior reporter at Gizmodo

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This is what you get when your healthcare system stigmatizes mental health and refuses to pay for a psychiatrist.