A photo of a key on a laptop keyboard. One of the buttons reads 'Mental health' and is colored green.

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and MTV Entertainment establish Mental Health Storytelling Initiative

USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has received support from MTV Entertainment Studios to become the long-term home of the Mental Health Storytelling Initiative. The unprecedented effort by a coalition of more than 60 entertainment industry partners and mental health expert organizations is designed to revolutionize the narrative on mental health — and extend its programming and research on media representation of this urgent issue.

MTVE’s support will establish the Mental Health Storytelling Initiative as an independent project of the USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which will manage its day-to-day programming and advance its groundbreaking resources.

The Inclusion Initiative will also conduct an MTVE-funded study to measure the efficacy of the Mental Health Media Guide. The Media Guide is a comprehensive online tool introduced by the Mental Health Storytelling Initiative in 2021, designed to help content creators develop authentic and nuanced mental health portrayals in entertainment.

As the founding partner, MTVE will continue to advise on the initiative’s strategic direction and support efforts to further expand mental health storytelling across the industry as well as understand its impact on audience perceptions and behaviors.

“The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is thrilled to be the home of the Mental Health Storytelling Initiative,” said Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. “When paired with our ongoing research work into representations of mental health, the Storytelling Initiative brings a strong advocacy focus with the ability to create real change. We are grateful to MTV Entertainment for their support of our work and this program, and look forward to working with the existing Coalition members to grow and advance our joint efforts.”

“One year after we spearheaded the Mental Health Storytelling Initiative and introduced the Mental Health Media Guide, both of which were inspired by our research with Dr. Stacy L. Smith and USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, I’m excited to build on our partnership as we transition the Initiative to its permanent home within the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism,” said Chris McCarthy, President and CEO, Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios. “Given the immense power of storytelling to shape the norms around mental health, it is critical that our creative process is informed by the scientific understanding of what should be avoided and what works best.”

The Mental Health Storytelling Initiative is powered by an unprecedented coalition of mental health expert organizations and industry leaders including Paramount, the Walt Disney Company, NBC Universal, Amazon Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Endeavor Content, among other leading media companies, who are adopting best practices surfaced in the Guide to help inform ongoing programming.