It's crucial to include stories of those who experience mental health issues on TV and in movies. But those portrayals can also have a real impact on viewers' mental health, especially for anyone who may dealing with the on-screen issues IRL. That's why Sharp Objects, HBO's new show, will end every episode with a message referring viewers to substance abuse and mental health services, Deadline recently reported.
“If you or someone you know struggles with self-harm or substance abuse, please seek help by contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 1-800-662-HELP (4357)," the card reads, per Deadline.
Sharp Objects, which premiered on Sunday, is about a reporter who "confronts the psychological demons from her past when she returns to her hometown to cover a violent murder," according to the show's IMDb page. (The show is based on the book by the same name by author Gillian Flynn.)
In the first episode alone, the show portrayed or alluded to substance abuse, addiction, self-harm, emotional abuse, illness, depression, trauma, murder, and death—all topics that deserve to be treated sensitively.
HBO's decision to supplement Sharp Objects with this kind of information is similar to one that Netflix made before the premiere of the second season of 13 Reasons Why.
As SELF reported previously, viewers of 13 Reasons Why were concerned about the show's graphic portrayal of issues like rape and suicide. So, Netflix re-edited a disclaimer before the pilot, put trigger warnings before the first season's most graphic episodes, and added a detailed PSA starring its cast members (out of character) before every episode of its second season telling viewers where and how to seek help if needed.
Although mental health experts welcomed those changes, there's plenty more to be done when it comes to portraying issues like these responsibly, such as avoiding graphic depictions of suicide or self-harm and promoting those mental health resources more widely.
But including messages like those from HBO and Netflix is a very important start.