As with everything else in 2020, the Mental Health Media Awards were a little different! However, we still managed to gather virtually to celebrate stories that reflect the challenges, lived experience and realities of people living with mental ill health. This year, the entries increased by over fifty percent, highlighting an increased interest in mental health-related content across Irish media despite a difficult year.
Led by Anton Savage, presenter and communications expert, the emotional ceremony saw powerful contributions from those who share their story and those who give them a platform.
MC Anton Savage kicks off the 2020 MHMA ceremony
Minister Mary Butler talks about stigma reduction in Ireland in 2020
Peter Feeney, Press Ombudsman and MHMA 2020 Judge spoke about the incredible challenge faced by the judging panel this year. He was impressed by the variety, depth and imagination shown across the entries, which made the selection process all the more difficult. He mentioned how important it is for journalists to resist engaging in stereotypes in their work and he was heartened to see this careful attitude reflected in every piece he reviewed. Peter said: “My hope is that this attitude will percolate through to all journalists, and result in our newspapers, our online publications, radio and televisions stations all being stereotype-free zones of informed and accurate reporting on mental ill health.”
This year, Headline was honored to welcome Mary Butler, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People to the ceremony. Minister Butler talked about the changing face of stigma reduction and prevention efforts in Ireland and how the media are an integral part of this. Commending the vital work of the nominees and winners, Minster Butler said: “In these extremely challenging times, it is so important to recognise and celebrate our successes.”
Journalists and producers may not often see the positive impact that their mental health content has on people living with mental health issues. Their work can help break down stigma and make those living with mental illness feel a little less alone. There was an uplifting video interlude at the mid-way point of the ceremony, during which a group of See Change Ambassadors shared their own first-hand experiences of the value of responsible reporting on mental health experiences.
Blessing Dada talked openly about the importance of the words we choose when discussing mental health: “When it comes to reporting about mental health, words are so important because they either reduce or create stigma.”
Sinéad Keating shared how supported she felt by seeing stories about mental health issues in the media: “When you highlight mental illness…it means that those of us who live with those illnesses are not the only ones talking about them, we’re not the only ones trying to convince people that those experiences are real.”
Eamonn Moloney reinforced how important it is for journalists and broadcasters to keep sharing and breaking down stigma barriers: “If your story or article helps one person, if it makes a difference for one person, then that’s what matters.”
This year’s Mental Health Content – Digital Award went to Rory O’Neill/Panti Bliss for the podcast episode, ‘Pantisocracy: Breaking Secrets and Silence’. The judges felt that “the differing perspectives of contributors were simply captivating, and the conversations were handled with remarkable respect, empathy, compassion and humanity.”
Rory O’Neill accepts the award for the Digital category
Owen Ryan of the Clare Champion won the Local Print and Online Award for his report, ‘Importance of being Jamie’. Described by the judges as “beautiful and well-written”, this piece handles the experiences of transgenderism and mental ill health with great care.
The winners of the Mental Health Broadcasting – Short Form Award were Marian Malone and Matt Kelly for an episode of Nationwide which focused on the Kinvara Alive suicide prevention initiative. The judges felt this was “a positive and uplifting segment, the humanity of the response was admirable, and you are left with the feeling that any community could do it.”
The Headline Special Recognition Award recognises that impactful conversations about mental health are not just coming from media professionals, but also those outside the industry who are also contributing in a valuable and positive way. For speaking out her journey towards recovery from an eating disorder, the winner of this award was Sheila Naughton for her interview, ‘The Road to Recovery’ on RTÉ Radio 1, accessible on RTE player.
Sheila Naughton accepts the award for the Special Recognition category
The winner of the Mental Health Content – Special Interest category was Peter McGuire’s piece, ‘Speak or Survive: Does Ireland Write Off the Survivors of Sexual Violence?’ for Noteworthy.ie. The judges were especially impressed with the huge amount of research that went into this piece and the number and diversity of perspectives included.
Peter McGuire accept the award for the Special Interest category
For Mental Health Broadcasting – Long Form Award, the winners were Kim Bartley and Aoife Kavanagh for their Virgin Media Television documentary The Unteachables. The judges described it as “ultimately a story of hope and empowerment, where nobody is a lost cause”.
The winner of the Headline Student Journalist Award was Kathleen O’Sullivan, for her article Hooked on Painkillers: farming’s hidden addiction. The judges noted that this piece was “well-researched and demanded answers from policy-makers and service providers”.
The National Print or Online Journalism Award was won by Jennifer O’Connell for her article in the Irish Times, ‘There’s no deadline for healing’. Jennifer gave couples who had lost a child to miscarriage a platform to tell their own stories in a sensitive and compelling way. The judges felt that “you could really feel the parents’ emotions through these evocative stories”.
Jennifer O’Connell accepts the award for the National Print and Online category
The Voice Media Award category was developed and judged in collaboration with See Change – The National Stigma Reduction Partnership. It recognises the coverage that a broadcaster or publication has given to those with self-experience of a mental health difficulty. The winner of this category, The Irish Times, has demonstrated excellence in reportage and inclusion of those living with mental ill health.
The Headline Impact Award, which recognises the impact a content creator, commissioning editor, individual producer or programme has made on audiences’ mental health recovery, went to The Echo/EchoLive.ie for their consistent coverage of a diversity of content around mental health and mental ill health. The judges noted a particular effort to highlight less commonly talked about mental health issues. For example, the presence of eating disorders among older men.
Meet the Judges
Education Editor, The Irish Times
Carl has been involved in judging Headline awards for almost a decade. For many years he was the social affairs correspondent with The Irish Times covering stories about mental health and social exclusion. He is currently education editor and writes regularly about how mental issues affect younger people.
Advocate, Consultant and Expert by Experience
Rick has lived experience of Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorders. He is a Mental Health Advocate & Consultant working through media platforms, open conversations and webinars. He is an avid writer and Blogger. He is an Ambassador for See Change & AWARE, and works with REFOCUS Group through The College of Psychiatrists. He has worked with and volunteered for Shine, eHealth Ireland, First Fortnight, ReachOut Ireland and Mental Health Reform.
Lecturer and Expert by Experience
Martha Griffin is an Expert by Experience, Lecturer in Mental Health at DCU. She is Chair of the Certificate in Peer Support Working in Mental Health programme and Peer Educator with Dublin, North, North East Recovery College. She is a member of the DCU Ignite Public Patient Project team which aims to increase participation in Health and Social Research in Higher Education. Her background is in community development, striving to enhance the voice of people with mental health difficulties in determining our own futures, through a human rights lens.
Communications & Policy Manager, Samaritans Ireland
Sarah joined Samaritans in 2017 after over 15 years working in journalism & PR. She started her career in regional newspapers in the UK before joining the Press Association’s Dublin bureau covering a variety of national and international news stories. She worked at the Irish Independent and a Dublin PR agency before joining mental health charity Samaritans. Sarah leads public awareness and media campaigns.
Journalist and Broadcaster
Olivia O’Leary is a journalist, broadcaster, public commentator and writer of international standing. She is currently the presenter of ‘The poetry programme’ on RTÉ Radio 1 and a regular contributor to ‘Drivetime’, RTÉ’s flagship radio evening news and current affairs programme. She is the recipient of numerous awards and three honorary degrees.
Communications Manager, National Office for Suicide Prevention
Ciaran has worked in the NGO sector, providing services in the areas of depression support, suicide postvention and suicide/self-harm prevention. His professional interest in these areas stems from his own personal experience, losing his youngest brother, aged 22, to suicide in 2006. At NOSP he focuses on Goal 1 of Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide, 2015-2020, “to improve the nations understanding of, and attitudes to suicidal behaviour, mental health and wellbeing”.
Also involved in the judging process for the Voice Media Award, Impact Award and Special Recognition Award were Shauna O’Connor from See Change, Caroline Norris, Karolyn Ward and Derek Pepper from Shine and Rosa Kearns and Elaine Haskins from Headline.
Headline is Ireland’s national programme for responsible reporting, and representation of mental illness and suicide. Our objective is to work as collaboratively as possible with Irish media professionals across print, broadcast, and online platforms to reduce the effects of suicide contagion, and the stigma attached to mental ill health.