As the U.S. continues to endure the current mental health crisis, many individuals have sought out professional help or been prescribed medication to address their conditions.

Whether due to a lack of behavioral health resources, the stigma associated with seeing a therapist or some combination of the two, however, many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to address their mental health conditions.

Nearly 80% of people who experienced such health issues have self-medicated with drugs or alcohol, according to data from Niznik Behavioral Health. Twenty-eight percent of people said they self-medicated to treat physical health concerns, 27% sought to treat mental health issues and nearly one-quarter attempted to treat both.

Around 20 million Americans have co-occurring disorder (COD),meaning that they simultaneously have at least one mental disorder and one substance use disorder, according to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. To tackle this public health challenge, the Harris Project, a nonprofit that supports efforts to improve the lives of teens and young adults at risk of developing CODs, released a three-minute public service announcement earlier this week.

The PSA opens with a scene featuring high school students playing a game of “Drink If.” While light-hearted at first, the spot evolves when one girl says, “Drink if you have to drink just to be here.” This results in concerned looks from her friends. Subsequently, she narrates a series of increasingly disturbing drink-if prompts intertwined with mental health issues she and her friends face.

The ad finishes with a title card that reads, “One in two people with substance use issues also struggle with mental health challenges.”

The PSA, “You Don’t Know the Half of It,” was written by Havas New York, produced by production company Love Song and shot by director Daniel Wolfe. Wolfe noted in a statement that he drew off his own previous experiences with mental health challenges and substance misuse. 

“The story needed to relate across a wide range of experiences,” he said. “I hope anyone who sees themselves in this film is able to find the help that didn’t exist for many of us when we were young.”

As part of the integrated campaign rollout, Havas New York will support “You Don’t Know the Half of It” with social and digital advertising through November. The Harris Project said it plans to show the film to federal lawmakers and, hopefully, leverage support from social media influencers to spread the PSA’s message. 

The PSA arrives at a moment when healthcare-focused organizations are making concerted public efforts to destigmatize mental health care as well as encouraging patients to seek care. For World Mental Health Day earlier this month, Harry’s teamed with BetterHelp to offer up to $200 in free therapy sessions with no purchase obligation. Late last month, Megan Thee Stallion starred in a PSA as part of the ongoing Seize the Awkward campaign from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Jed Foundation and the Ad Council.