Vibrant knows stories of hope demonstrate that recovery is possible and can help save lives. We work in partnership with media companies and corporations to change the conversation around mental health by creating content that reduces stigma, fosters resiliency and promotes help-seeking.
Film and TV have the power to change attitudes about mental health. Recognizing its influence, entertainment companies have worked together, and with Vibrant, to produce a first-of-its-kind Mental Health Media Guide. Noopur Agarwal, The MTV Entertainment Group’s Vice President of Social Impact, shares how this new resource will help content creators write storylines that depict mental health in a holistic way.
A 2019 report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative revealed that the entertainment industry could do more to destigmatize mental health and portray stories of hope. My colleagues and I at The MTV Entertainment Group recognized an opportunity to step up, to create more stories that advance the narrative in a positive way.
The MTV Entertainment Group -- which includes MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, Logo, Pop TV, the Smithsonian Channel, CMT, Paramount Network and TV Land -- is developing a first-of-its kind Mental Health Media Guide in collaboration with a number of industry partners . Advised by Vibrant and other mental health experts, this digital resource is intended to help content creators present more authentic and nuanced storylines about emotional health struggles. After all, mental health isn’t a binary issue; most of us experience emotional health across a continuum. But that reality is often missing in programming.
That’s why this comprehensive media guide will offer tailored information specific to each content creator’s needs. The guide will be searchable via a specific mental health condition (e.g. depression or anxiety), the person they’re trying to represent (e.g. a LGBTQ+ character), and format (e.g. comedic or unscripted). Ultimately, each storyteller will receive recommendations for content development based on where they are in their creative process (i.e. beginning stage or ready-to-release).
This effort would not have been possible without the expertise and guidance of our Expert Advisory Council. Comprised of organizations like Vibrant that have worked tirelessly for decades on emotional health issues, these groups helped shape and inform the recommendations for storytellers. Vibrant, as a leader in this space, has been at the center of that process. They have encouraged a shift toward a positive narrative -- one that normalizes mental health struggles and offers clear pathways to resources and support.
As I look to the future, I hope that the Mental Health Media Guide will have a transformative impact on how TV and film portray mental health. I want viewers to consume stories that depict mental health as we know it to be -- something we all have, must work at, and manage every day of our lives.