From the Carter Center: Social media is not a substitute for quality journalism, but two recipients of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism believe that it can make people feel less alone and help to destigmatize mental health issues.
Jaclyn Cosgrove, a 2015-16 recipient of the fellowship, used social media to help fight the stigma against talking about mental illnesses. “When I started writing about mental illness, I wanted to use social media to start an ongoing conversation and build a community around that conversation,” she says. Cosgrove, now a reporter for the Los Angeles Times newspaper, wrote provocative in-depth and investigative pieces on mental health for the Oklahoman newspaper during her yearlong fellowship project with The Carter Center. In response to reader interest, Cosgrove also created a Facebook page for Oklahomans to share mental health experiences and resources with each other. “The Facebook group evolved over time into a community of people, ready and willing to help each other in crisis,” she says. “While I was moderator of the group, I saw strangers help each other find housing, mental health treatment, and support groups.”
Cosgrove shared her Facebook community experience with Carrie Seidman, a 2016-17 fellowship recipient. For her fellowship project, Seidman invited anyone with a mental health condition to create a “self-portrait” in any visual arts medium, to depict how they feel about their challenges or how they believe they are perceived by others. Those who were willing were interviewed for stories that ran in the Herald-Tribune. At the end of months of interviews, she hosted an exhibit in Sarasota’s largest library for the entire community as an education and awareness activity and an opportunity for people to connect with each other. “Every story I wrote was shared on Twitter and Facebook, and I created a Facebook group for the project. It was originally a closed group, but I soon made it an open group, which now has about 170 people in it,” Seidman says.
“It’s important for journalists to engage with the public about their reporting, and I think social media is an important tool to do that,” Cosgrove said. “Sometimes, journalists lose sight of the fact that it’s ‘social’ media, and not just a place to tweet out your stories.”
more about the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
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