ViacomCBS Is Prioritizing Mental Health
In the U.S., suicide rates are the highest they’ve been since World War II, yet mental health is still often misunderstood and stigmatized. Events in 2020 brought this concern to the forefront for our viewers.
ViacomCBS has a commitment to mental health stretching back a decade and a half. Building on our long legacy, MTV Entertainment Group has recently launched Mental Health is Health, an initiative seeking to harness the power of storytelling to destigmatize mental health and drive behavioral and cultural change that normalizes mental health conversations and inspires action.
In 2020, ViacomCBS and the Well Being Trust conducted a survey of Americans to better understand the attitudes of mental health care. We found that:
- COVID-19 and social injustice have only exacerbated mental health challenges, with more than half of respondents reporting that difficult feelings have been getting in the way of their daily activities and relationships during the pandemic.
- 78% of Americans believe that their mental health is an important priority.
Collaborating To Create a First-of-Its-Kind Mental Health Media Guide
In recognition of the pivotal role storytelling can play in addressing the growing mental health crisis, MTV Entertainment Group led the development of the first-ever Mental Health Media Guide, a groundbreaking, comprehensive resource for content creators designed to help expand positive mental health portrayals. The Media Guide was developed by a coalition of media and entertainment companies and mental health experts and organizations. We will use it to inform our own storytelling and programming across our channels.
Our Brands’ Commitment To Being A Part of the Solution
Our brands have championed a constructive conversation around mental health for many years. When the SHOWTIME show Homeland first aired in 2011, the main character, Carrie Mathison, was one of the only protagonists on television struggling with bipolar disorder.
In 2020, we participated in the mental health and wellbeing conversation in a number of ways:
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah raised over $40,000 during Mental Health Awareness Month and highlighted programs to help address the unique emotional challenges of the pandemic. The recipients of the donation, Vibrant’s Disaster Distress Helpline and NYC Well, provide life-saving crisis support to anyone in distress.
- Lady Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germanotta, joined the CBS This Morning special Stop the Stigma broadcast to talk about the impact of mental illness on her family and friends.
Sparking Important Conversations
In 2020, we announced that we will expand mental health resources, including our Employee Assistance Program, to all production teams and talent to ensure that every single person on a ViacomCBS production has access to free, professional counseling.
ViacomCBS Veterans Network is partnering with our content producers to talk about mental health and suicide proactively and responsibly. For example, SEAL Team is a drama that follows an elite unit of Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions our country can ask of them. We introduced David Boreanaz, a leading actor on the show, to a couple who lost their son in combat in order to give Boreanaz perspective on what his role means to military families.
For shows that contain triggering content like Blue Bloods, a CBS drama about a multi-generational family of veterans and cops dedicated to New York City law enforcement, the ViacomCBS Veterans Network reviewed scripts to ensure appropriate warnings were included.
On the international side, we supported the UK’s Film + TV Charity in the launch of its Whole Picture Programme, which is designed to improve mental health for employees behind the scenes in UK film and TV. We will continue to work with the charity’s taskforce and mental health experts to help those working in our industry feel supported and valued.
In Africa, MTV Generation Change’s Need to Know in Isolation series passed the mic to Nigerian mental health activist Hauwa Ojeifo, who discussed the importance of selfcare, explained how access to services like medication and therapy is vital for vulnerable populations and encouraged audiences to amplify the call for mental health awareness during the global pandemic.