HBO announced a new "It's OK" initiative to destigmatize mental illness issues on Thursday, during Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. The initiative includes special disclaimers that will be played before episodes of Euphoria, Barry and other programs. Each "bumper" will end with a number to contact NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
According to HBO, the bumpers will tell viewers which mental health issues are covered in the episode. They were created with the help of NAMI and its local New York affiliate.
For example, a bumper for an episode of Euphoria might list bipolar disorder, depression and substance abuse disorder. After the topics are listed, the screen reads, "If you or someone who know needs help, please call: 1-833-HBO-NAMI or visit NAMI.org."
Aside from Euphoria and Barry, the bumpers will appear before select episodes of Girls, The Sopranos, Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh, Boy Interrupted, Chris Gethard: Career Suicide, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press One, Diagnosis Bipolar: Five Families Search for Answers, I Love You Now Die, In Treatment, Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck, Risky Drinking and The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling Part 1 & 2.
"HBO has always been at the forefront of telling stories featuring complex characters, some of whom deal with mental illness, from The Sopranos to Euphoria, encouraging more conversation around the different facets of mental health,” HBO Vice President of Brand & Product Marketing Jason Mulderig said in a statement. “We are not saying ‘viewer discretion is advised.’ We are saying ‘viewer conversation is encouraged.’”
In addition to the bumpers, HBO is releasing doctor commentaries featuring Dr. Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist. His first commentary track was recorded for a scene on Lena Dunham's Girls and was released on YouTube Thursday.
“It’s easy to overlook symptoms of mental illness and examples of mental health when we’re watching a show,” Mattu added. “There’s so much we can learn within certain scenes of these selected shows and we hope the commentaries give viewers a new perspective on mental health.”
HBO is also releasing Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh on its YouTube channel for a limited time. The special features the comedian discussing his struggles with depression on the stage and through documentary footage.
The "It's OK" initiative comes after the critically acclaimed Euphoria faced criticism for its frank depiction of mental illness among high school students. Star Zendaya even issued a warning to her young fans, stressing that the show is only for mature audiences.
"Just a reminder before tonight's premiere, that Euphoria is for mature audiences," Zendaya wrote on Instagram. "It's a raw and honest portrait of addiction, anxiety and the difficulties of navigating life today. There are scenes that are graphic, hard to watch and can be triggering. Please only watch if you feel you can handle it. Do what's best for you. I will still love you and feel your support. Love, Daya."
Photo credit: HBO
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