"Mental Health, It's Everyone's Business"
Posted Friday 5 March 2010
Submit entries for Mind Journalist of the Year 2010
Almost a year ago, I rocked up at the Royal Institute of British Architects for the Mind awards with my colleague Kerry Grove. As local journalists working in a particularly unglamorous part of Sutton, it would be fair to say it's not hard to impress us. Usually we regard it as a bit of a treat to pop to the greasy spoon over the road for a bacon sandwich - or on an extra special occasion, we'll splash out on a Sainsbury's sandwich.
So it was a bit of a surprise to be greeted by a sweeping staircase, concert pianist and about 300 very well turned-out people. Even more amazing was that we won Mind Journalist of the Year against all the brilliant national journalists there that night. The event unfolded like some strange dream - from the moment I heard my name called to the late hour I called my family with the news.
I can't begin to say how much of a boost that night gave me and my colleagues in our office. In a year where local journalism had been ravaged to its bare bones by the recession, that award made me dare to hope that journalism did still matter - that it was worth fighting for.
The award was in recognition of articles written for our newsgroup's campaign, "Mental Health, It's Everyone's Business". We published fortnightly features which aimed to destroy the myths surrounding mental illness, something we learnt much from ourselves. The articles explored a range of illnesses including body dysmorphic disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Through interviews with experts and case studies, we were able to create concise, fact-based articles which we felt raised awareness of mental illness while showing the local community where they could go to for help.
One year on, so much has changed. I'm now a senior reporter and health correspondent at the Wandsworth Guardian, and I've been working on some really exciting side projects too. We still go to the greasy spoon, but now we're indulging in the Sainsbury's splashes more regularly.
Our campaign is finished, but we're keeping the spirit alive. These days, I'm finding more and more people in the community coming to us with their mental health stories - people who perhaps would have been too scared to approach us before. It's meant those people now have a voice, and we've been able to hold local services to account more effectively.
I jumped at the chance to write about mental health because it had always frustrated me how little I myself had known about it as a youngster. Several people I cared about developed a mental illness, and yet no-one realised until it was very advanced because they didn't recognise the symptoms.
Just ten years later I've noticed such a huge difference in awareness about mental health - and that's partially down to all the amazing journalism which has appeared in that time. I'm very much looking forward to being on the judging panel for the next Mind awards and reading all the fantastic articles submitted this year.
If you're a journalist, why not submit your work, or the work of another journalist, for entry into this year's awards? And if you're a member of the public, let us know if there's an article that you think represents excellence in the coverage of mental health issues.
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