It is not all the fault of the pandemic. Stress, burnout and trauma have long plagued the news industry, only we did not want to talk about it. Sleep deprivation was worn as a badge of honour. Angry outbursts of exhausted editors were revered as a sign of their grandeur. Excess drinking and substance abuse were just what everyone was doing to blow off steam, right?
Of course, the pandemic did not help. But even before, we have seen one talented journalist after another leaving the industry because they have burned out. Unless something changes, many more will follow.
Like everything, even the biggest changes start with the first step. For some, this step could be a new series of free-to-attend workshops organised by Headlines Network, a community of those who care about mental health in the media.
Created by journalists and mental health thought leaders Hannah Storm and John Crowley, and supported by Google News Initiative, these 90 minute weekly sessions will share practical tips and tools for mental wellbeing and offer a safe space to talk about the challenges around the topic.
"Unfortunately, ours is an industry where conversations about mental health and wellbeing are few and far between and where journalists often feel they have to suffer in silence, for fear of the repercussions on their reputations and careers if they admit they are struggling," says Storm.
Being able to connect with like-minded peers and open up about mental health can help "lessen some of the stigma around admissions of vulnerability," she adds. Although the workshops do not provide therapy, participants can share tips, techniques and inspiration to improve mental wellbeing in their organisations.
And that is quite a challenge since most newsrooms are ill-suited for this type of conversation. Both Storm and Crowley know this all too well as they have backgrounds in running newsrooms, as well as lived experience of having suffered with mental health problems. They also know that having a space for an open conversation can help others feel less isolated.
To provide the best kind of support, the participants will be split into four cohorts: early career, new managers, middle career and senior leadership.
As a rule of thumb, an early-career journalist is someone in their first few years in the industry. New managers are those who became managers in the past couple of years but their seniority may vary.
Middle career sits somewhere between early career and senior leadership. The latter cohort is made of people who run desks, newsrooms, bureaus, perhaps those who have multiple direct reports.
None of these criteria is set in stone though and individual participants are best placed to assess which cohort they will benefit from the most.
If you would like to join the workshops, apply here. They start on 8 November 2021 and run for four consecutive weeks.
Do not miss our next digital journalism conference Newsrewired, with four days of panels and workshops from 19 October 2021. Check out the full agenda and tickets
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