HBO has announced it will add mental health awareness “bumpers” ahead of select shows in order to identify specific mental illnesses that appear in the episode and provide a call to action for anyone seeking help.
The move comes as part of an initiative at the network called “It’s OK,” which aims to destigmatize mental illness and encourage conversation around mental health issues. Earlier this year, a report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that less than 2% of all film characters and roughly 7% of TV characters experience mental health conditions on screen, a failure to reflect the fact that close to 20% of the U.S. population reports some form of mental health condition or illness each year.
The premium cabler partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) to create the warnings which are modeled on “The following program is rated…” slates that appear before movies and other shows. The list of series in front of which they will appear includes “Barry,” “Euphoria,” “Girls,” and “The Sopranos,” among others.
“HBO has always been at the forefront of telling stories featuring complex characters, some of whom deal with mental illness, from ‘The Sopranos’ to ‘Euphoria,’ encouraging more conversation around the different facets of mental health,” said Jason Mulderig, vice president of brand & product marketing at HBO. “We are not saying ‘viewer discretion is advised.’ We are saying ‘viewer conversation is encouraged.’”
Also part of the initiative is a short form content series titled “Doctor Commentaries,” which will include conversations on relevant scenes from HBO shows that focus on mental health illnesses, starting with scenes from the Lena Dunham show “Girls.” The content will be presented by Dr. Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate. Each of the seven “Doctor Commentaries” will be roughly 2-3 minutes in length and will be posted on both HBO’s and Dr. Mattu’s YouTube channels.
“It’s easy to overlook symptoms of mental illness and examples of mental health when we’re watching a show,” said Dr. Mattu in a statement. “There’s so much we can learn within certain scenes of these selected shows and we hope the commentaries give viewers a new perspective on mental health.”
Take a look at the first episode of “Doctor Commentaries” below: