MTV has a long history of supporting the topic of mental health through original content and an extensive roster of pro-social campaigns. The Obama Administration took notice and invited the network to share best practices with an impressive room of education and mental health pioneers as part of the National Conference on Mental Health. Held at the White House and hosted by President Obama and Vice President Biden, the mission was to ignite a national conversation about how to address mental health in our communities.
Repping MTV at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was Noopur Agarwal, Vice President of Public Affairs for MTV and a passionate advocate for increasing mental health resources for young people. Agarwal is also an integral part of the team that pulled together MTV’s “Half of Us” and “Love is Louder” campaigns, both of which are run in partnership with The Jed Foundation, the nation’s leading organization working to reduce emotional distress and prevent suicide among college students.
“MTV has partnered with the White House several times before to help amplify the stories of young people taking positive action, so the administration was aware of our pro-social campaigns,” Agarwal said. “They reached out and mentioned they’d be focusing on emotional health, and asked us to share the lessons we’ve learned on the topic as we continue to engage and empower our audience through campaigns like ‘Half of Us’ and ‘Love is Louder.’”
A little bit about the campaigns:
“Half of Us” was created in response to original research by mtvU and the Jed Foundation, which found that half of all college students felt so depressed they couldn’t function. The campaign reaches students on over 750 campuses nationwide, and audiences really connect with personal celebrity stories on mental health from songstress Mary J. Blige, Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and actress Brittany Snow.
“We launched the ‘Half of Us’ campaign in 2006 to support the significant portion of college students battling issues like depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and self-injury,” Agarwal said. “The campaign uses real stories from celebrities and students, powerful PSAs and a robust online presence to increase understanding of mental health conditions and to encourage help-seeking.”
“Love Is Louder” was born out of a need for more solution-focused and positive messaging surrounding emotional health, according to Agarwal. The campaign swelled into a movement bringing people together in a network of love and support to combat negativity with positive messaging and creativity.
While the “Half of Us” campaign created an effective storytelling platform for young people and sent the message to students that they are not alone, teen suicides continued to dominate headlines throughout the fall of 2010. Feeling the need to push their programs further, MTV teamed up again with the Jed Foundation and actress Brittany Snow to create “Love is Louder,” Agarwal said.
“Love is Louder” engages with its active social media community to strengthen emotional health by building resiliency, creating connectedness and promoting acceptance, and to date hundreds of thousands of young people have shown support for their peers through this initiative.
After telling the audience about the two campaigns above, Agarwal’s presentation then focused on the three important lessons learned: telling authentic stories, tapping into cultural moments and empowering the audience – all of which offer great advice for any grassroots campaign in search of a voice and a following.
If you look closely at the evolution of MTV’s two signature mental health campaigns they not only told stories that resonated with young people but the brand mobilized resources to empower audiences in the midst of significant cultural shifts in society.
When reflecting on her ‘once in a lifetime’ presentation and panel at the White House, she humbly brings it back to the lessons shared – hoping MTV’s best practices not only inspire but create solutions.
“It was an honor to participate in the panel and to share the stage with my fellow panelists, who have all done amazing work. In particular, the commitment to this issue shown by senior members of the administration, including Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Duncan, VP Biden and President Obama himself, was incredibly heartening. I hope the lessons we shared can provide meaningful insight as the administration and the conference attendees strive to improve mental health in America.”