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In February 1982, a young Eric Bender eagerly awaited the broadcast premiere of Superman: The Movie, as his extended family gathered in front of their Hitachi color television set for this special event. Later, in 1983, a “persuasive” boy named Praveen Kambam convinced his parents to buy him the original Japanese Diaclone Starscream Transformer by promising not to fire the toy’s missiles at his brother. Meanwhile, in the summer of 1984, six-year-old Vasilis Pozios walked into the local dime store with 75 cents and walked out with a copy of Detective Comics #540 (featuring Batman battling the Scarecrow), freshly plucked from a spinner rack. Although we did not know it at the time, these events would mark the beginnings of our life-long appreciation of pop culture.
Twenty-five years later, after becoming physicians and each developing various interests in media and mental health, the three of us gave presentations on forensic psychiatry and media topics at an academic conference. Over lunch, we reminisced about our childhood love of pop culture and discussed our hope of seeing more accurate representations of mental health in popular media. By the end of the conference, we decided it was time to take action: Broadcast Thought was formed.
Our initial goal was clear – utilize various forms of entertainment to responsibly translate medical jargon and ethically teach about mental health in accessible and relevant ways. Through speaking engagements at both popular arts conventions and academic conferences, media interviews, and consultation to entertainment professionals, we quickly realized that we filled an overlooked gap. Ethical and credible mental health professionals, with legitimate qualifications, were not effectively embracing and utilizing popular media in order to advance mental health.
To our surprise, we also found that our expertise, enthusiasm, and passion for pop culture took the entertainment itself in new and more compelling directions. Entertainment professionals also recognized this and began integrating Broadcast Thought into the creation and production of innovative media. This was the origin of a new era of mental health and media collaboration.