CBS cares about reducing mental illness stigma

by Cody Dolan on June 3, 2010 · 26 comments

in bipolar disorder

In case you missed it, CBS recently ran a public service announcement (PSA) about bipolar disorder as part of the network’s “CBS Cares” series. In it, Mark Harmon, the star of NCIS, gives the audience a short, sweet and incredibly compelling definition of the disease. He goes on to say that most people suffer from bipolar disorder for years without diagnosis because the symptoms can be confused with other illnesses, like depression, and encourages his audience to learn more.


Below you’ll find the video. I’d prefer to give you the clip straight from the source to give CBS their props, but the network’s website doesn’t allow embedding.

Mark Harmon’s PSA about bipolar disorder

You might be thinking, “Big deal, it’s just a PSA that very few people see because everyone has a DVR nowadays and fast forwards through commercials.” You’d be wrong.

Well, you’d be mostly wrong. Yes, a lot of people might miss this PSA because commercials are annoying and we all hate them.

But the PSA I saw was the full 30-second version. That’s 30 seconds of Mark Harmon talking straight to the audience with no cutaways. Even if you’re skipping over commercials, you’ll notice that the normal screen full of flashing images has stopped and been replaced by a static talking head.

And this is Mark Harmon, not the 4th male lead of the 3rd CSI spinoff. NCIS was once the #1 show in all the land despite the fact that no one you know will admit to watching it. (Full disclosure:  I watched it up until this year when my two-year-old daughter decided it was her mission in life to wear her parents out so they are in bed by 10 pm every night.) It’s now comfortably in the top 20 and gets close to 4.5 million viewers a week in the key 18-49 demographic.

In other words, Mark Harmon may not be a huge or “hot” name, relatively speaking, but he is a big deal.

Besides being mostly wrong, you’d also miss the point. Harmon directs you to, a site dedicated to raising awareness for several causes. Among the usual cancer- and civil rights-related topics you’ll find two that we deal with at The Menninger Clinic:  bipolar disorder and depression. And it doesn’t appear to be lip service. Take a look around and see what you think.

Here we have “America’s Most Watched Network” devoting a full 30 seconds of important advertising space during prime time to discussing a mental illness that a lot of people either don’t know about or like to downplay as a punch line.

Changing minds

You might think “CBS Cares” is trite or insincere or only exists out of the network’s obligation to the FCC, and at one point I might have agreed with you. But then I saw a huge force in the entertainment industry devote quality time to an issue that doesn’t seem to garner as much attention in the media, let alone around the proverbial water cooler, as it should. So I changed my mind.

Thank you, CBS. You’ve helped me feel better about liking The Big Bang Theory so much.

(As if I needed another reason. Come on, that show’s hilarious.)

Be Sociable, Share!