These Two Women Collaborated To Remove Mental Health Stigmas In Marginalized Communities
Carol Lee RoseFor(bes) The Culture:Noopur, as a woman of color, how do you make sure to manage your mental health on a day-to-day basis?Noopur Agarwal:It’s so important to treat our mental health as a core part of our overall health. For me, that means being open about how I’m feeling and never shying away from conversations about my emotional well-being. I am also fortunate to have a strong support system and I lean on those individuals whenever I need to.
For(bes) The Culture:How have you both seen mental health and the entertainment industry work hand-in-hand?Dr. Bradford:I have been really inspired by the attempts to include more mental health storylines in entertainment recently. I think we are seeing more attention paid to what mental health looks like on an everyday basis and not just in moments of crisis. I’ve also enjoyed seeing more depictions of characters going to therapy and getting support as I think these things can go a long way in reducing the stigma related to mental health.
Agarwal:MTV has a long history of working with mental health experts, going back 15 years to the launch of our Peabody Award-winning campaign on youth mental health. Working on that campaign, I witnessed the power of storytelling first hand. Artists like Mary J Blige, Demi Lovato and Macklemore courageously opened up about their emotional struggles alongside brave young people from across the country. headtopics.com
Noopur Agrawal, Vice President of Social Impact at MTV EntertainmentMTV EntertainmentThose real stories ultimately helped break stigma, encouraged help-seeking and fundamentally changed the national conversation about mental health. Seeing the impact we could have through storytelling, it was clear we had to think even bigger and tap one of our greatest assets: our shows. A study published by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in 2019 found that only 7% of scripted TV characters experienced a mental health condition, compared to nearly 20% of the general population. And when mental health conditions were represented, the portrayals often perpetuated stigma and very rarely depicted help-seeking.
As storylines about emotional health surfaced in our content, for example, on VH1’s ”Black Ink Crew: Chicago” one of the central cast members Pho, revealed his depression to the cast. We partnered closely with experts to ensure that his storyline was imparting a positive message while also connecting viewers to resources. His storylines not only depicted the topic in an organic way but also resonated deeply with audiences, particularly in the Black community which has seen the topic as verboten, driving hundreds of thousands of viewers to seek resources and help. This type of high-impact show integration work is happening across the industry with the support of many leading expert organizations. And while the commitment to this work is inspiring, there’s still a long way to go.
For(bes) The Culture:How can the Mental Health Action Day movement more deeply support Black communities and other marginalized groups during this time?Dr. Bradford:It’s important to contribute funds to groups and organizations that are already doing incredible work in creating access and resources for mental health in the Black community and other communities that have been marginalized. New initiatives are not always necessary. Sometimes it’s more effective to find the people already doing the work and amplifying their messages and providing resources for them to continue.
Agarwal:The pandemic and other recent events have taken a severe toll on mental health in BIPOC communities —from the stressors of systemic racism and persistent incidences of police brutality, to anti-Asian violence and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Latino/a/x and Indigenous folks. Through Mental Health Action Day, we’re intentionally bringing together partners who can reach BIPOC communities, and collectively amplify the message that we must take action to support our mental health. From Color Of Change, to Black Girls Smile and beyond, partner activations will take many forms, and be tailored to the needs of each community. headtopics.com
Boosting representation of diverse communities in content is another way in which we can support mental health in BIPOC communities. Seeing members of our own community dealing with mental health challenges on screen can have a major impact on the way we perceive mental health, how we talk about it and our propensity to seek help and help others. That’s why the Mental Health Media guide has specific recommendations for how to authentically tell these stories in a way that resonates with marginalized communities who are often underrepresented in entertainment media and at higher-risk for mental health challenges.Read more: Forbes »
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