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The Mental Health Storytelling Coalition will kick off next month at the Storytelling Summit 

By Ally Mauch
April 06, 2021 05:00 PM
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National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Credit: National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

A group of leading media companies and experts are coming together to tackle how mental health is portrayed in entertainment.

The various partners, brought together by MTV Entertainment Group, will make up the Mental Health Storytelling Coalition and have set a goal to "change the narrative on mental health," according to a Tuesday press release.

The participating media companies include ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company, Amazon Studios, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Endeavor Content and more. The University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the JED Foundation, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project are among the mental health expert organizations involved.

The coalition will kick off at the Mental Health Storytelling Summit during the first week of May, in addition to unveiling a comprehensive Mental Health Media Guide to provide "best practices and evidence-based recommendations to support storytellers at any phase in the production process, across topics and genres."

MTV Entertainment Group
Credit: MTV

The announcement comes amid a spike in national suicide rates among young people, in addition to increases in depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The mental health crisis is the silent pandemic that has been on an alarming rise for the last decade and we are so thankful to our partners for joining us in this coalition to unleash the power of storytelling to help shatter the stigma around mental health," MTV Entertainment Group president Chris McCarthy said in a statement.

"As storytellers, we have the opportunity to represent the continuum of mental health and empower people to help themselves and each other, because mental health is health," he continued.

Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS, said: "Media has enormous influence over how we collectively perceive and understand the most difficult issues in our society. The mental health crisis impacts people of all demographics and geographies, and as content creators, it's our responsibility to use our assets — through our stories, platforms and reach — to take action. Our ability to come together as an industry to meaningfully shift the narrative around mental health can transform the lives of people everywhere."

Added Glenn O'Neal, the chief communication officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness: "How mental health is portrayed in film, television and other popular media deeply impacts the public discourse about and perceptions of people with mental illness. We're proud to collaborate on this project so that the diverse experiences of people with mental health conditions are accurately represented, reducing stigma and discrimination."

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Amit Paley, the CEO and executive director for the Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, highlighted the unique challenges facing LGBTQ youth and their portrayal in entertainment.

"As the entertainment industry continues to include more storylines around LGBTQ youth, mental health, conversion therapy, and suicide, it's important to reflect and validate these experiences without being sensational, and to showcase hope, resilience, and help-seeking," Paley said. "We're grateful to be part of a changemaking coalition that worked to bring the Mental Health Storytelling Summit and Mental Health Media Guide to life, and to help provide ongoing guidance and resources to media and entertainment industry leaders." 

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.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.