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MHKAFE: Mental Health Experts Charge Journalists With Responsible Reporting

Mental health experts are displeased regarding the discrimination against persons with mental health challenges, thus, they have tasked journalists with responsible reporting of such issues.

The experts from various health backgrounds agreed that responsible and accurate reporting would go a long way in reducing stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health conditions in the country.

Speaking at a capacity-building webinar organised for media practitioners, at the weekend, they held that accurate reports on mental health would encourage people with such conditions to make themselves available for treatment.

The webinar was organised by Mental Health KAFE (MHKAFE), in collaboration with the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) and the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria (APN).

The National President, APN, Prof. Taiwo Obindo; founder of MHKAFE, Deborah Adenikinju; Prof. Taiwo Sheikh of the Psychiatry Department, University of Jos (UNIJOS) and the Deputy Director, Journalism Programme, CJID, Busola Ajinola are among the experts that discussed the issue.

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According to them, “How you report stories about individuals with mental health challenges can increase awareness and reduce stigma around these conditions.”

Stressing that the media plays a critical role in advancing understandings of mental illness and suicide, they noted that fair and accurate when dealing with topics such as mental health, “which already is entrenched in stigma and misunderstanding” has become necessary.

The experts, who went ahead to call on media organisations to take steps to support their employees’ well-being through counselling services, mental health training and promoting a healthy work-life balance, also beckoned individuals in the industry to prioritise self-care.

They believe this can be achieved by seeking support from colleagues and professionals and always being alert to the signs of mental health.

Among the numerous factors that can impact the mental well-being of media practitioners include irregular work schedules, job insecurity, vicarious trauma, lack of self-care and a high pressure environment.

They cited the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Framework, of which, work is in progress by the Federal Ministry of Health, partnered by the APN, CJID, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), health reporters, mental health professional, Service User Group and other civil society organisations, whom they believe will assist in facilitating the processes.