HBO wants its viewers to know that talking about mental health should be normal.
Beginning Oct. 10, which was Mental Health Awareness Day, the premium cable network rolled out a public service announcement and educational materials about mental illness, and added mental health disclaimers before certain programming.
In a video airing on the network and distributed on its social channels, HBO spotlights characters from its shows including Euphoria, Girls, Succession and The Sopranos who struggle with mental health issues. The message is simple: “It’s more common than you think. And it’s OK.”
The initiative, which was created with help from the advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, is called “It’s OK” and is intended to help de-stigmatize mental illness and normalize conversations about mental health. As part of the initiative, the network has begun running disclaimers prior to the airing and streaming of certain shows that depict mental health issues. One that ran before Euphoria, for example, highlighted that the episode would contain mentions of bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse disorder.
HBO partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and worked closely with its New York office to identify which episodes the messages should run on. The bumpers also include a messages urging people to call 1-833-HBO-NAMI or visit nami.org to seek help.
“We thought it was incredibly important to encourage meaningful conversation around mental health,” said Dana Lichtenstein, HBO’s director of marketing.
As part of “It’s OK,” HBO is also creating a series of educational videos featuring expert commentary from cognitive behavioral therapist and mental health advocate Dr. Ali Mattu. The videos are intended to dispel myths about mental illness and discuss how mental health issues are depicted in HBO programming.
One video featuring Mattu discussing the depiction of obsessive compulsive disorder in the series Girls has already been released, and the network is working on several additional commentary videos to roll out in the coming weeks for programming like The Night Of and The Sopranos. The commentary videos will also be available on YouTube and HBO’s website.
HBO and Wieden+Kennedy began working on the program last May. The initiative does not have a fixed end date, but is intended as a pilot program that will expand as more HBO programming features characters battling mental illnesses.
“Based on yesterday alone, the response has been incredibly positive, and we’re looking to bring this ‘It’s OK’ program to life in other ways,” Lichtenstein said. “Our commitment to encouraging the conversation and hopefully de-stigmatizing mental health goes beyond this one day.”