HBO Is Having a Psychologist Analyze Its Shows to Explore the Characters' Mental Health

Beginning with anxiety disorder and OCD on Girls

Today, Oct. 10, is World Mental Health Day. To mark the occasion, HBO found a creative way to destigmatize mental illness and encourage conversation around mental health issues—by using its own programming as an educational tool. 

Working with Wieden + Kennedy New York, the network is launching "Doctor Commentaries" on YouTube and, in which Dr. Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist and mental health champion, breaks down scenes from popular HBO shows to address the mental health challenges the characters are facing in them. 

Here's the first one, which addresses anxiety disorder and OCD on Girls: 

In addition, HBO has created special bumpers to run in front of certain shows. Typically, the bumpers warn the viewer about things like violence and nudity; these new bumpers alert the viewers to mental-health issues depicted in the episode. 

The bumpers will debut in select episodes of Barry, Euphoria, 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," says HBO's vice president of brand and product marketing, Jason Mulderig. "We are not saying 'Viewer discretion is advised.' We are saying 'Viewer conversation is encouraged.' " 

There is also an anthem spot for the campaign, whose overarching theme is: "It's OK." 

As of 2018, one in five adults were living with some form of mental illness, HBO says. And yet most people are unsure, unwilling or afraid to talk about their struggles. 

"It's easy to overlook symptoms of mental illness and examples of mental health when we're watching a show," explains Dr. Mattu. "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." 


Client: HBO
Project Name: "It's OK" 
Client Contact: Jason Mulderig, Dana Lichtenstein, Matt Bataclan, Elizabeth Tillman
Launch Date: October 10, 2019

Agency: W+K New York
Executive Creative Director: Karl Lieberman
Creative Directors: Jaclyn Crowley, Sean McLaughlin 
Copywriter: Will Binder
Art Director: Blair Warren
Art Director: Zoe Kessler
Head of Integrated Production: Nick Setounski 
Senior Producer: Kimberly Edwards
Producer: Purvi Sheth
Studio Manager: Jill Kearton
Design Lead: Frank DeRose
Designers: James Hughes, Liam Hamill
Account Director: Samantha Wagner 
Account Supervisor: Lee Ford
Assistant Account Executive: DeMornay Harper
Brand Strategist: Brian Ritter
Comms Planner: Lizzie Manning 
Social Strategist: Leah Greene
Junior Social Strategist: Faith Daniels
Project Manager: Julie Knight
Business Affairs Manager: Michael Moronez
Public Relations Director: Theresa Collins
Public Relations Specialist: Sanam Shah

Film Production Company: Joint
Director: Jihye Ku 
Executive Producer: Michelle Carman
Producer: Nick Jones / Sam Broscoe 
Director of Photography: Brandon Yoon 
Gaffer: Anthony Asaro
Production Designer: Steven Killian
Photographer: Kristen Gladney 

Editorial Company: Final Cut
Editors: Ashley Kreamer (Succession), Michael Dart Wadsworth (The Sopranos, Barry) , Chris Rizzo (Girls)
Executive Producer: Sarah Roebuck
Head of Production / Producer: Penny Ensley
Cutting Assistant: Matt Carter

VFX: Significant Others
Lead VFX Artist / Creative Director: Dirk Greene
Flame Assistant / VFX Artist: Nicholas Renaudeau
Graphic Designer: Phil Brooks
Finishing Producer: Kyra Hendricks

Sound: Machine
Sound Mixer: T. Terressa Tate
Sound Assistant: Amanda Fuentes
Sound Producer: Kyra Hendricks

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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