Pop culture can help you get audiences talking about this under-exposed topic.
There’s a good reason July was designated Minority Mental Health Month: Diverse communities are often underrepresented when it comes to mental health issues. After all, just look at the way mental health is addressed on TV. Some of the most visible examples of characters facing mental health issues — such as Rebecca in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Gretchen in You’re the Worst and Carrie in Homeland — are all white women.
Sure, these shows are a great way to start a conversation about mental health and can even be used to highlight the need for greater diversity. But people of color face some unique challenges and deserve their own pop culture representation.
Connecting pop culture to the causes you care about is an effective way to challenge stereotypes, combat stigmas and increase empathy. The month is coming to a close, but if you want to get people talking about minority mental health all year long, we’ve compiled a short list of TV shows that tackle the issue head-on.
Share some of your favorites with your networks and tie them to the need to better address the unique needs of diverse communities. While you’re at it, leverage Mental Health America’s #MyStoryMyWay campaign to boost your exposure. We’d love to hear how it goes.
HBO, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video and more
This show — which returns for a third season August 12 — gets real about mental health by exploring Molly’s experience with therapy, which she resisted at first. As actress Yvonne Orji said in an interview, black people often shrug off the need to ask for help, so she hopes the storyline proves that therapy is not a bad thing. Plus, it gives viewers an instructive inside look at the process.
FOX, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and more
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) isn’t just for veterans (like You’re the Worst’s Edgar). Jamal’s storyline vividly depicts his struggles with PTSD in this popular show about a black hip-hop mogul and his family. In fact, actor Jussie Smollett has talked about the show’s efforts to demonstrate the many causes of PTSD, including police brutality and racial profiling. What’s more, Empire tackles more than one mental health issue, exploring Andre’s challenges with bipolar disorder and including how he manages the condition (or fails to do so) as part of his storyline.
Showtime, Google Play, iTunes and more
In season 4 of this popular series, the character of Teresa — a Hispanic woman luchadora — struggled with postpartum depression, demonstrating that it can impact anyone from any background. Although this storyline is a couple years old, it was hailed by some mental health organizations as an honest depiction of how devastating postpartum depression can be, and it shows how people with mental health challenges can be stigmatized with heartbreaking results.
Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and more
This charming Australian show gives a little love to the issue of mental health in the LGBTQ community by delving into anxiety and depression experienced by some of the show’s main characters, including Arnold, the boyfriend of the show’s protagonist, Josh. Arnold’s journey includes challenges related to both his sexuality — as he comes out to his parents — and the realities of balancing any relationship with a mental health issue.
NBC, Hulu, Google Play and more
Not a show to shy away from authentic emotion, This Is Us has tackled grief, addiction — and in the case of Randall, who is black, anxiety and one of its manifestations: panic attacks. In fact, many people who have experienced panic attacks have remarked on how realistically Randall’s was portrayed, making his storyline a powerful tool for educating viewers.
This is the third installment of WATCH IT, an ongoing series highlighting TV shows and movies that address a social issue or topical theme. For guidance on putting these storylines to work, check out some of our tips on using pop culture in social change communications. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how your organization can use pop culture in its communications.
– By Amy Lynn Smith for AndACTION