News coverage of mental health and journalists’ own well-being have traditionally been overlooked in the journalism industry, despite the fact that media professionals are often witness to incredible tragedy and trauma, deal with hectic schedules, face uncertain futures in the business, and work in unhealthy newsrooms. The COVID-19 pandemic just added more fuel to the fire.
In a recent survey of nearly 1,000 Canadian media workers, 69% reported having anxiety and 46% reported suffering from depression. Fifty-three percent have sought out health professionals to deal with work-related stress and mental well-being.
In response to this pervasive issue in our global journalism community, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, the Carter Center and The Self-Investigation are offering the free online course, “Mental health and journalism: How journalists can responsibly report on it and take care of themselves.”
This five-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) runs from June 27 to July 31, 2022. Registration is open now, so sign up today.
“You might have heard the saying ‘put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.’ Well, it’s essential to surviving a flight emergency and it’s equally essential to preserving one’s sanity and overall health in such a high-pressure and emotionally charged job as journalism,” said Kim Brice, co-founder of The Self-Investigation and course instructor.
“Journalists are human beings and susceptible, just like anyone else, to mental health challenges, depending on their personal background and experience and the topics they cover. It’s just common sense to be aware of one’s own physical and mental health and the potential risks in order to work well and live well,” Brice continued. “That awareness will also enable journalists to report on mental health issues with greater understanding and respect, and they can use that knowledge to help improve the health of societies through their reporting.”
Other instructors for the course are Mar Cabra, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and The Self-Investigation co-founder, and Stephanie Foo, writer, radio producer and author of the memoir What My Bones Know.
In five weeks, they will cover:
While Cabra said mental health issues are gaining more attention, debate and resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on societal health, she added that the topic “remains largely taboo or misunderstood.”
“For too long, the journalism industry has adopted and even glorified an ‘always on’ culture and the pandemic simply accelerated and amplified the effects of that culture on journalists’ well-being,” Cabra said. “And we are seeing its detrimental aftermath on individual journalists and the profession more generally.”
Beyond journalists’ own mental health, this course will delve into how media professionals can also approach mental health issues when reporting.
“Journalists need to know how to ethically report on mental health issues in order to protect the individuals they are reporting on, as well as protecting other individuals in their community,” Foo said. “You also want to make sure that you aren't reinforcing dangerous stereotypes, creating stigma surrounding whatever topic you're reporting on, and further isolating people with mental health conditions from the world around them.”
Brice, Cabra and Foo will be joined by an impressive list of about a dozen guest speakers, including Hannah Storm and John Crowley, the co-directors of Headlines Network, Sisi Wei, co-executive director at OpenNews, and Alia Dastagir, reporter for USA Today.
“We want this opportunity to give voice to those players who are doing amazing work on destigmatizing mental health in the media around the world and promoting a healthier and more diverse journalism culture,” Cabra said, regarding the guest speakers.
The instructors will teach the course using video lectures, presentations, readings, discussion forums and quizzes.
This course is asynchronous, meaning course activities can be completed on your own schedule. There are recommended deadlines in place so you don’t fall behind.
Those who successfully complete course requirements and pay an administrative fee of US $30 can receive a certificate of participation at the end of the course. There is no formal credit of any kind associated with the certificate issued by the Knight Center.
“This MOOC is a first: we’re bringing mental health training to a massive audience on a scale that had not been done before,” Cabra said. “For so long journalism courses were focused on hard skills (social media, spreadsheets, newsletters), but we’re now beginning to accept that soft skills are also important. We’re recognizing that we’re human beings too! We are as important as our work – if not more!”
“We are grateful to the Carter Center for the support that made this course possible, and to the three instructors who accept the challenge of developing this pioneer program that will benefit journalists around the world,” said professor Rosental Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center. “We are happy to partner with The Self-Investigation, an organization recently created to provide a variety of services aimed at improving media professionals’ well-being.”
So, join the instructors today for this important course where you’ll learn not only how to take care of yourself, your mental health and well-being, but also how to cover the mental health of your own community. Register today.