Guiding Principles

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At the beginning of this collective journey, the experts, organizations and entertainment industry professionals leading this effort convened to establish a set of guiding principles to help inform the creation of this guide:

Mental health is a continuum we all move across throughout our lives. We all have mental health, whether we’re thriving, struggling, or dealing with an extreme mental health challenge. Entertainment media has the opportunity to represent all aspects of this continuum and help audiences understand that mental health is just as dynamic, all-encompassing, complex and individual as physical health.

Collaboration can unlock new opportunities. Storytellers have a unique ability to create empathy, shift perceptions, and inspire action. Mental health organizations and experts bring a nuanced understanding of how to support mental health at all stages of the continuum. Collaboration and communication between these two communities can increase impact at all stages of the creative process.

Proactive storytelling drives the biggest impact. By moving beyond a “checkbox” approach that focuses on what not to do, and instead thinking about our impact throughout the entire life cycle of a project, we have an opportunity to intentionally create stories that can improve and save lives.

Mental health experiences are diverse, and mental health storytelling should be too. We can’t separate mental health from other aspects of our identities like race, gender, or sexual orientation. Certain cultures and marginalized communities are at increased risk for mental health challenges, and research has shown that individuals are more likely to engage in mental health messaging if they see themselves represented in the message delivery. Storytelling around mental health should reflect a diversity of identities, backgrounds and experiences.

We’re constantly learning. This guide is based on evidence-based approaches and expert consensus on best practices built on the current understanding of mental health and media impact. As new data emerges, the world continues to change, and entertainment formats and platforms evolve, this guide must evolve too. The coalition of partners is committed to updating this guide to continually meet the needs of content creators, the mental health community, and audiences.