As part of an initiative aimed at helping to destigmatize mental illness and encourage discussion on the topic, HBO is adding new disclaimers before selected shows, identifying specific illnesses appearing in those episodes and providing a call to action for anyone needing help. Such notices have begun appearing elsewhere lately—most notably posted before 13 Reasons Why, and more recently, The Politician, on Netflix—but this will be a sustained and ongoing effort by a TV channel to promote mental health awareness via bumpers that run before its programs.
Variety reports the decision comes as part of a new network initiative at HBO called “It’s OK,” which is working to promote awareness of these issues and overturn the current under-representation and under-acknowledgment of mental illness in film and television. A USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report from earlier this year found that despite roughly 20% of Americans reporting some form of mental health condition or illness each year, only 2% of all film characters and 7% of TV characters are depicted dealing with mental health conditions. In partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Health, HBO created pre-air warnings, akin to “the following program is rated...” bumpers, to encourage calls for help and destigmatization. Shows that will run the disclaimers prior to airing include current series like Barry and Euphoria, as well as older programming like Girls and The Sopranos.
Along with the disclaimers, HBO is also creating a series of short videos called “Doctor Commentaries,” that will discuss relevant scenes from its shows as they relate to mental health issues. Featuring Dr. Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist and mental health advocate, the videos will run on HBO’s and Mattu’s YouTube channels. You can see the first of these, which addresses OCD and an example of it from Girls, below.