MTV was considered the first network to promote mental health awareness when they launched the campaign “Half of Us” in 2006 to decrease mental health stigma. Even though MTV was making a big step in addressing addiction and mental health, there was also criticism for exploiting the struggles celebrities were going through. MTV’s new docuseries 16 and Recovering could change the way MTV views addiction and mental health by offering hope instead of controversy.

How MTV Can Set an Industry Standard

Over the past few decades, medical professionals and advocates have worked with creators and networks to avoid glamorizing or oversimplifying certain issues. They would dig together all the data of what the misconceptions were of the issues and what should be emphasized. ViacomCBS, the brand that brought us MTV and VH1, plans to introduce their media guide at an industry summit to use for scripted and unscripted shows. The media guide is designed to teach these creators how to promote healthy narratives around hope, resilience, and coping.

The Controversy of VH1 with Addiction and Mental Health

VH1, a sister network of MTV, had a reality TV show called Celebrity Rehab in 2008. It was heavily criticized for making a TV drama at the expense of those fighting life-threatening addictions. The backlash increased after the deaths of Mike Starr, Jeff Conaway, and Rodney King, as well as Mindy McCready, who died by suicide in 2013. That same year, it was announced the show was canceled. This taught MTV and VH1 that they need a different approach when it comes to addressing these ongoing issues. The media guide suggests that creators get mental health experts involved during the casting process so that producers can make informed decisions about whether these participants are willing to share their stories.

How 16 and Recovering Can Be an Example Towards Erasing the Stigma

Director Michelle Lipinski did not want 16 and Recovering to be exploitive where kids are shown sticking themselves with needles. She wanted to show what adolescent recovery looks like. It is important to have shows where seeking recovery is normalized as well as decreasing the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health recovery. Viewers may not know where to turn to and the show can educate them on important steps to take. If MTV can show addiction recovery the right way through 16 and Recovering, other TV networks will be encouraged to follow suit as well.


Teenagers are going through addiction all the time. Popular television networks need to be careful about how they present topics of addiction and mental illness when they reach a large audience. It is important for them to show these hard topics not in a comedic light, but in a serious way that can help people get a true understanding of how untreated addiction and mental illness can lead to dire life consequences. At Alta Loma, we help men of all ages get through the essential steps of their addiction recovery. Located in Georgetown, Texas, we have plenty to offer that can help you through your addiction recovery, such as individualized therapy, therapeutic recreational activities, 12-Step programs, and more. We understand the struggle of reaching out for help and how important it is to get through your recovery one day at a time. Please give us a call at (866) 457-3843 today to learn more.