Credit: Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Journalists play an important role in shaping public attitudes around mental health. But almost two years into the pandemic, it is clear many media professionals are struggling with their own emotional wellbeing, sustained stress and uncertainty. Critically, they are also facing barriers to being able to share their experiences.

The past few months have seen resilience wearing thin with many of our colleagues exhausted, making it harder for them to cope with the daily demands of our hyper-connected and yet disconnected industry.

Headlines Network, a community to promote mental health conversations within the media, is launching a series of free wellbeing workshops for UK journalists from 8 November 2021. The sessions are being carried out in collaboration with the mental health charity Mind, Charlotte Armitage and Dr Mo Qadri from Cast Care Clinic, and journalist and psychologist Dr Sian Williams.

 "The pandemic has exacerbated the stresses many journalists have already been feeling. We've always lived with tight deadlines and limited resources - and we're used to dealing with difficult and challenging events - but now our mental health is being tested more than ever. Journalism can feel like a place of high stakes, professionally and personally, perhaps even more so after the last 18 months, said Dr Williams.

"I’m delighted to be part of a conversation to ask difficult questions about our industry and try to look for answers: how do we protect our mental wellbeing and stay sane while reporting on a world of insecurity and uncertainty, anger and fear?

"These workshops will examine how we know when we're struggling, and what help might be helpful. It's informed by decades of on-the-ground experience, and psychological research with journalists and other frontline workers. We need to talk about how we build our resilience levels, both as individuals and as an industry."

Headlines Network is run by journalists Hannah Storm and John Crowley who felt compelled by their own lived experience and professional expertise to create a community to promote more open conversations about wellbeing in our industry. This project is made possible with the support of the Google News Initiative.

"To have the opportunity to work with Sian, Mind, Mo and Charlotte is wonderful. We are delighted they will be sharing their expertise with our Headlines Network community. Their involvement is a real testament to the importance of these conversations for our industry,’ said Headlines Network founder and director Hannah Storm

"We feel that a cross-industry debate about mental health is needed now,’ added Headlines Network co-director John Crowley.

"The workshops will offer practical actions and advice to attendees but we are very much in listening mode too. The cohort attendees will benefit and learn from conversations with colleagues as well.' 

There has traditionally been a reluctance in journalism to speak openly about issues of mental health. Even though covid has brought more of recognition within some newsrooms of the stressors on our emotional health, there is still a gap in terms of support and safe spaces where journalists can ask for help without fear of repercussions.

"Mind is very pleased to be working with the Headlines Network to promote conversations around mental health in the media. Journalists play a key role in shaping public attitudes on mental health and bringing about positive change but they are faced with unique pressures when carrying out their role and the pandemic has further compounded these issues and created new challenges," said Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind.

"Mind will be collaborating with Headlines Network offering specific sessions to journalists on how to talk about mental health, and exploring the impact of shame and stigma on our ability to speak about our experiences and seek support."

Dr Mo Qadri from Cast Care Clinic sees parallel themes present in medicine and journalism that can impact on individuals' wellbeing, noting the "long hours, demanding schedules, stressful work environments with tight deadlines, hierarchical power structures, highly competitive job market, not to mention the serial exposure to traumatic events all of which is seeped within a culture of 'just getting on with it'.

"As a clinician who works to ensure junior doctors and nursing staff are provided safer better working environments, I appreciated that it was only by objectively exploring how working practices impacted upon our thinking and our mental health that we would be better able to understand what we need to do to live sustainable healthier lives," Dr Qadri added.

He will be offering his insights with Cast Care Clinic colleague Charlotte Armitage, a psychologist and psychotherapist specialising in duty of care and the film and TV industry.

"It is vitally important for everyone to be aware of their mental health and the impact their career might be having on them, this is especially true for journalists who may be working on traumatising events. We hope by helping to support the mental wellbeing of journalists, who may be adversely impacted by what they witness at work, it will help to prevent psychological distress and burnout, ultimately leading to more longevity in their career," she said.

"We are looking forward to working with Headlines to offer support and guidance on mental health and best practice for people working in the sector. We hope to help everyone involved to build self-awareness as well as equipping them with tools to manage their boundaries which we hope will consequently reduce work-induced anxiety."

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