Josh Thomas, writer, star and creator of Please Like Me.
In conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day, NAMI and Participant Media’s television network Pivot hosted a screening of the critically-acclaimed series Please Like Me for staffers and Congressional members on Capitol Hill last week.
Representative Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) made opening remarks at the event and addressed how raising public awareness is vital to sparking change in the mental health community.
Please Like Me is a comedy series on Pivot TV that follows a group of 20-somethings as they try to navigate their love lives and becoming adults. One of those 20-somethings is played by Josh Thomas, who is also the show’s creator. On the show, Josh’s mother lives with bipolar disorder and experiences suicide attempts as well as time in a psychiatric hospital which is based on Josh’s personal experience with his own mother.
One of Participant Media’s goals with all of their content is to compel social change. The use of a comedy TV show is a unique way to spark a conversation about the importance of mental health care in America.
NAMI screened clips from the show that displayed the affect mental illness can have on not only the individual with illness but also their family and friends. Following the clips we were able to have a meaningful and informative dialogue with Congressional staff, experts and NAMI staff.
Josh, who is as hilarious and endearing in person as he is on screen, sat on a discussion panel along with Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, a retired Army Colonel and current Chief Clinical Officer for the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health, to discuss how comedy and TV can impact the image of mental illness in the U.S. Josh says his primary goal with Please Like Me was to entertain, but the fact that people are getting some insight on mental illness without really realizing it is an added bonus.
Jessica Hart, NAMI State Advocacy Manager and Alden Stoner, Senior Vice President of Social Action Campaigns from Participant Media were also able to weigh in and share their collective expertise on the importance of comprehensive mental health care from their different perspectives.
The panelists fielded questions about a variety of mental health topics including health insurance coverage and criminalization. When one Congressional staff member asked a question about rates of mental illness in America’s prison system, Josh responded with shock. As a native Australian he had trouble wrapping his mind around the concept of putting those with mental illness in prison instead of providing them with treatment as they do at public hospitals in Australia. We feel the same way, Josh.
Please Like Me is in its second season and this Friday’s episode is especially important to NAMI because it delicately and respectfully addresses Josh’s feelings about his mother’s illness. You will definitely laugh and you will probably cry too but we won’t spoil anything for you. The episode airs Friday, Sept. 19 at 10:30 p.m. on Pivot TV.
For those who don’t get Pivot from your cable provider, you can buy episodes after they air on iTunes or Amazon.