#BellLetsTalk is an annual event intended to combat stigma surrounding mental illness. Today, social media will be flooded with the hashtag, and Bell will donate 5 cents to initiatives supporting mental health for every tweet, Facebook share, text and call made. You will also undoubtedly see news articles discussing the event and the challenges facing those seeking help to maintain their mental health.
One thing you likely will not see, however, is journalists talking about the detrimental effects our profession can have on our own mental health. As journalists, it is our duty to bring attention to the injustices in the world, but in the process we often forget that our newsrooms aren’t insulated; that we aren’t solely observers but also actors in our own drama.
One of these injustices is the lack of support in the newsroom for journalists dealing with mental illness. News organizations have a double standard when it comes to mental health: we call out the lack of mental health support in other industries and strive to make our mental health reporting better while simultaneously failing to establish welcoming and supportive environments for our peers.
This is unacceptable. Many journalists come into their jobs already dealing with mental illness, but our high-stress, sometimes traumatic, profession can exacerbate these conditions and also tear away the mental health of those who previously never struggled with maintaining it.
So, it is with all this in mind that the Ryerson Review of Journalism presents this mental health first aid kit. Included you will find a self-care tip from every RRJ staff member, a list of past articles from the RRJ discussing mental health and resources to be used if you are experiencing mental health issues.
This kit is meant to assist and educate, but ultimately, the onus should not solely be on journalists struggling to maintain their mental health.Instead, our workplaces must work to create a supportive environment to support us as we deal with these issues. This means in-house counselors, better insurance programs to help mitigate the cost of psychology and medication, back-to-work transition programs for those who need to take time off and an environment where employees don’t feel ashamed for taking this time to get well in the first place.
End mental health stigma.
We’ve shared some of our methods of self-care here at the RRJ. Share yours with us on Twitter using #JournalistSelfCare and we will retweet to get a conversation going among journalists.
Former RRJ staff members have written powerfully on mental health in the past. Here are a few articles that are must-reads for journalists, especially today.
Mental health: why journalists don’t get help in the workplace by Megan Jones
Reporters are finally telling empathetic stories about depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, but newsroom culture keeps journalists’ own struggles in the dark.
Suicide Notes by Liam Casey
I contemplated killing myself five years ago. Now, to help others, I call on all journalists to break the silence on our final taboo.
The War Inside by Nina Boccia
War correspondents can be “Totally fucked up. They can’t face reality. They can’t face the down of not having the adrenaline pump.” An in-depth look at the hidden aftershocks of covering bloody conflicts up close.
Lost in Translation by Soraya Roberts
Reporters have written thousands of words about people with mental illness. Too few of them get inside their heads.
Hard to Swallow by Nataliya Schafer
Should there be media guidelines in Canada for reporting on and discussing eating disorders?
We all need help sometimes. If you’re in urgent need of support, please use this resource to find your local crisis centre or hotline.
About the author
Davide is the blog editor of the spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. He also works as an associate editor for the Islamic Monthly. Davide's articles have appeared in numerous publications including Al Jazeera America, The Globe and Mail and the National Post.