Public and Private Partners Join PBS’s This Emotional Life Effort to Bring Help, Hope to Millions of Americans
Vulcan Productions, NOVA/WGBH Launch Two-Year, Nationwide Campaign with SAMHSA, Mayo Clinic, Blue Star Family, Others
December 30, 2009 — On the eve of a new year, as millions of Americans struggle to find more meaning in their lives, Vulcan Productions and NOVA/WGBH have brought together a number of national, public and private organizations around a nationwide, multi-faceted project sparked by the upcoming PBS series, This Emotional Life, premiering January 4-6, 2010 (9 p.m.). The two-year campaign aims to bring help and hope to millions trying to improve their lives.
This Emotional Life is hosted by Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert, and is a co-production of Vulcan Productions and the NOVA/WGBH Science Unit. The series unfolds across three, two-hour episodes, exploring the nature of the social relationships that are the key to our human happiness (Family, Friends & Lovers); the obstacles to happiness, negative emotions, which we can’t live with and can’t live without (Facing Our Fears); and the sometimes misguided pursuit of happiness itself (Rethinking Happiness). The programs are produced by Kunhardt McGee Productions. Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest in brain science research, along with revealing comments from celebrities such as Chevy Chase, Larry David, Elizabeth Gilbert, Alanis Morissette, Katie Couric and Richard Gere.
Leading medical, health sciences and service organizations from around the country recognize the importance and potential impact of this project and are assisting in developing content, distributing materials and resources and are taking part in events around the country. Partners and contributors include the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); Blue Star Families; the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance; Mental Health America; Mayo Clinic; the National Alliance on Mental Illness; and University of Phoenix.
"The TV series is the cornerstone of a broader project to help people form better, deeper and more profound human connections," said Senior Executive Producer Richard Hutton of Vulcan Productions. "This Emotional Life uses the powerful medium of television to ignite a national conversation about our emotions and our many partners will ensure that the dialogue continues."
"The series is filled with real people coping with real problems typical of us all," said Paula Apsell, Senior Executive Producer, NOVA/WGBH Science Unit and co-producer. "We hope these stories -- which feature new psychological techniques and the latest research on the emotions -- will help others improve their own lives."
This Emotional Life is complemented by a content-rich Web site, www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife. It provides vetted resources and opportunities to build social support networks around topics highlighted in the series, such as the importance of early attachment, how to heal strained or damaged relationships, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, depression, grief, resilience and our pursuit of happiness.
As part of the research conducted in the making of the documentary, Vulcan Productions identified two areas that deserved deeper attention. As a result, Vulcan is developing two toolkits: one that addresses early attachment for parents of infants and a second that addresses the emotional challenges faced by military service members and their families during the deployment cycle.
The "Early Moments Matter" toolkit is aimed at parents and caregivers of infants and is designed to educate them about what attachment is and why it’s important, a topic explored in the first episode of This Emotional Life. The toolkit also provides parents concrete advice on ways to build attachment, a key to healthy social and emotional development. The toolkit will be distributed in high birthrate hospitals, pediatric doctors' offices, and community-based clinics, as well as through partners who serve the target population of expecting and new parents.
"The Family Guide to Military Deployment," will provide tangible resources and tools to the families and friends of some of the 1.8 million servicemen and women who have been deployed, helping them face the emotional challenges typical of pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment. This Guide was developed through extensive review and discussion with military and mental health experts and feedback from military family members, and includes an accompanying DVD consisting of interviews with service members and their families.
The Family Guide to Military Deployment will be distributed through partnerships with government organizations and branches of the armed forces, through military family service organizations such as Blue Star Families, and through private partnerships with organizations such as University of Phoenix. The information and resources available in the toolkits will soon be accessible online through the Web site, www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife.
"So many of our students either serve in the military or have a spouse in the service," said Bill Pepicello, president of University of Phoenix. "In addition to providing these students with educational opportunities, we are committed to helping them find trustworthy resources to manage the emotional difficulties associated with deployment." University of Phoenix is providing funding for the military toolkits and access to distribute these toolkits to the organization’s enormous student base of military service members.
"Many Americans are struggling with mental health issues, suffering from mental illness or simply falling short of finding emotional health," said A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed., and Director of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). "We need to encourage individuals to understand their emotional lives and if necessary seek effective, evidence-based solutions. This project will be a valuable resource for that information."
As part of this effort, SAMHSA has provided funding for the project and the early childhood attachment toolkit. SAMHSA is also providing fulfillment and distribution for both toolkits, and is using its leadership and influence in the field of mental health to create awareness about and support for the entire two-year campaign. Other partners, including Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, Mental Health America, Mayo Clinic, and National Alliance on Mental Illness are providing expert content for the Web site and online resources and are creating awareness and support for the two-year campaign.
"Our hope is that viewers come away with what years of research have shown: individuals who feel connected are healthier and happier and better equipped to deal with stress and adversity," said David Shern, Ph.D., President and CEO, Mental Health America. "Good mental health is much more than the absence of illness- it’s about being able to handle life’s challenges and even flourish. By focusing on the importance of mental wellness and the crucial role social support plays in our well-being, This Emotional Life will inform and empower those who watch it."
Blue Star Families, another private partner, is actively participating in the creation of the Family Guide to Military Deployment and developing opportunities for the campaign to reach military families, including participation in This Emotional Life high-profile events and creating distribution channels for the Guide.
About the Project Partners:
Vulcan Productions is the independent film production company founded by investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen in 1997. Vulcan Productions devotes itself exclusively to producing independent films of unique vision and artistic quality. Through its collaborative partnerships with established and emerging filmmakers, Vulcan Productions explores creative opportunities that result in engaging and inspirational story telling. www.vulcanproductions.com
NOVA/WGBH Science Unit WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of fully one-third of PBS’ prime-time lineup, along with some of public television’s best-known lifestyle and children’s programs and many public radio favorites. One of its premiere programs, NOVA, is a production of the NOVA/WGBH Science Unit. Now in its 36th year of broadcasting, NOVA is the most popular science series on American television and is seen in more than 100 countries. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over. www.wgbh.org/ and pbs.org/nova
Kunhardt McGee Productions (formally Kunhardt Productions) was founded in 1987 by Peter W. Kunhardt, a veteran of ABC News and the winner of three national Emmy Awards. Dyllan McGee, Kunhardt’s longtime colleague, became a partner in the company in 2008. The company specializes in multi-platform documentary programming crafted to bring cutting-edge scholarship to popular audiences. www.kunhardtmcgee.com
Method is a brand experience agency that helps organizations and businesses harness the competitive power of design. With deep expertise in research, strategy, design and technology, Method offers a rigorous, intelligent approach to solving complex brand problems in the physical and digital realms. www.method.com
Cause & Affect is an innovative agency operating at the nexus of media and social change, with the objective of creating meaningful public engagement on a wide variety of issues. Led by Meredith Blake, the architect of the social action campaign accompanying Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Cause & Affect brings widespread attention to causes by partnering with influential individuals or organizations that possess considerable resources, visibility and credibility. www.causeaffect.com
Mission Measurement helps nonprofits, foundations and corporations measure and improve their social impact through strategy and measurement consulting, training and data services. As the result of their work, organizations have been able to improve the effective delivery of their services, increase the visibility of their work, achieve financial sustainability and communicate results to key stakeholders. www.missionmeasurement.com