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MTV hopes 16 and Recovering helps change the perception of how it portrays mental health

  • "As anyone who has ever sat through a Teen Mom marathon can attest, MTV — along with its sister network VH1 — has a flawed legacy when it comes to unscripted television," says Bethonie Butler. "Over the years, a slew of questionable incidents have unfolded on Teen Mom and its spinoffs." 16 and Recovering is different since it's made in partnership with USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and a group of mental health organizations, including the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the youth-focused Jed Foundation. "Mental health experts have for years emphasized that sensitivity is needed when it comes to exploring topics such as mental illness, addiction, suicide and sexual assault in media," says Butler. "The efforts at ViacomCBS arrive as TV creators are increasingly grappling with how to responsibly address those issues in on-screen narratives and how to support viewers who may be vulnerable. MTV and its expert advisers describe the media guide as a blueprint for doing just that. Seen as a “living document” that will continue to evolve, it calls on TV and film creators across the industry to take a proactive and holistic approach to incorporating mental health and related issues into scripted and unscripted story lines." Chris McCarthy, who oversees MTV as president of entertainment and youth brands for ViacomCBS, says part of the Annenberg partnership involved taking a critical look at the company’s own programming. The self-reflection will likely lead to changes in how future MTV and VH1 reality shows are cast.

    TOPICS: 16 and Recovering, MTV, Chris McCarthy, Mental Health, Reality TV