We never dreamt last year that we would once again be hosting the Headline Mental Health Media Awards virtually, but we were delighted that so many people could join us in spite of this. We’re grateful for everyone’s support as we navigated the twists and turns of planning the MHMAs.
Once again, the ceremony was expertly led by Anton Savage, whose style and humour led us through the technical difficulties to capture the emotional and uplifting tone of the occasion.
Anton Savage opens the awards
Sarah Stack, Communications & Policy Manager, Samaritans Ireland, and MHMA 2021 judge
Sarah Stack, MHMA 2021 Judge, spoke about the exceptional standard of content this year across all categories and all forms of media. The content was diverse and ranged from engaging interviews with people who have experienced mental ill health through to meticulously researched exposés of Ireland’s mental health system. The judges felt the content as a whole was raw, engaging and provocative, while at the same time being strong, fair and thorough.
One of the wonderful benefits of working at Headline is that we often get to hear stories from members of the public who have been positively impacted by something they have read, heard or seen in the media. The work the media do is incredibly important – both for enhancing understanding of mental ill health and suicide and for exposing the challenges that exist in our mental health services and working towards changing them.
We received especially powerful testimony this year from some of the people whose lived experience of mental ill health features in the shortlisted pieces. Some of this testimony was included in a ‘thank you’ video shown during the ceremony. For many of these people, the experience of engaging with the media was not just positive, but empowering and in some cases, life-changing.
Here’s what they had to say:
-‘Every single time that a producer or a presenter or a journalist in the paper rings me and asks for my story, not only are you giving me a platform and helping me to help others, you’re also telling me that I’m important, that what I have to say matters’
-‘They made me feel that this isn’t about just having a good interview – this is about trying to reach people, and to tell a story that’s going to change people’s lives.’
-‘Her [award nominee’s] contribution to my life in such a short space of time has been phenomenal, and I will always be grateful to her.’
-‘Just…you feel human, that’s probably the best way to put it. [The interview] really done a lot for me.’
-‘Media reporting things like this means I’m not on my own, I’m not the only one, I am not the bad person that I thought I was.’
-‘The people…when they were sitting down looking at this…they then could feel, it’s just not me, I’m not the only one in this dark place, there is other people there, and if I could pick up the phone and talk to somebody or speak to a member of my family or a friend, that would be the first step’
-‘It made me feel that I wasn’t alone. It’s okay for what I’m feeling. It made me feel that it’s an illness, and I can go and seek help. And that’s when I decided to reach out to my GP and have those conversations, and I truly believe that article saved my life.’
-‘I thought…they’re able to speak out, they’re able to talk about this. There must be a way to get better, and I must find that way to get better, and I must fight for my life, to stay well and get better.’
This year’s Mental Health Content – Digital Award went to A Lust for Life for their interactive Instagram Live on the topic of ‘Intrusive Thoughts’. This piece featured Zach and Mairéad bravely sharing their experiences with OCD, an illness that is still frequently misunderstood and quite heavily stigmatised. Their clear-spoken stories of hope and recovery could help both those living with this illness and others who want to learn about it. The approach taken here – a live session with real-time input from people watching – was engaging, highly interactive and refreshing, and it hugely impressed the judges who felt it was an excellent use of the platform and available technology.
Fiona McGarry of the Clare Champion won the Local Print and Online Award for her report, ‘Letting a light shine for fellow survivors’. The judges felt that this honest, heartfelt and compelling piece gave an invaluable insight into the real impact of sexual violence and rape on a person’s mental health. It explored Martin’s progression through various supports, toward his own recovery, and in a way that will be informative, hopeful and destigmatising for others. The Clare Champion were commendable in providing a voice to Martin originally some years ago, and have diligently returned to his experiences in this piece, to allow him to ‘shine his light’ once again.
Fiona McGarry, winner of the Local Print/Online Award
The winner of the Mental Health Broadcasting – Short Form Award was PJ Coogan for Cork’s 96FM for an episode of Opinion Line entitled Owenacurra residents devastated by proposed closure which focused on the closing of a local mental health service and its impact on the community. The judges commented that this piece was a strong human-interest story which gave long term health care residents a voice, respecting how they felt and what they wanted. They felt it really tried to understand why this facility was closing and was well told from point of view of the patients, their family members and staff.
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 was The Pat Kenny Show. The judges for this award felt that the team at The Pat Kenny Show worked collaboratively with people who wanted to share their stories of mental ill health, and that they did this with genuine care and support for each of them.
Pat Kenny of The Pat Kenny Show, which won this year’s Voice Award
The Headline Special Recognition Award was created to acknowledge the vital contribution that people with lived experience make to media representations of mental health difficulties. Without them, many of these stories couldn’t be told. For sharing her unique perspective on the difficulty of accessing Irish mental health services as a Deaf woman, the winner of this award was Karen Sinnott for her interview, ‘A Voice in the Dark’ featured in New Ross Standard. The judges felt that Karen Sinnott showed great strength and bravery in sharing her powerful story and commented that it had given them a whole new perspective on the extra challenges that come with accessing mental health services in Ireland as a Deaf person. All of the judges were profoundly moved by the courage and honesty displayed throughout this piece.
Karen Sinnott, winner of the Special Recognition Award and Vanessa O’Connell, her sign-language interpreter
The winners of the Mental Health Content – Special Interest category were Paul Fennessy and Karen Leach for their article ‘I do not want any other child, any other young person or athlete to go through what I went through’ for The42.ie. The judges were struck by the overwhelming sense of trust between the authors of this article. They found it an incredibly moving piece with extraordinary depth and heart. They all agreed that it was a hugely powerful and important piece of journalism in its focus on the long-term impact of trauma experienced after abuse.
For the Mental Health Broadcasting – Long Form Award, the winner was Outlier Collective for their RTÉ documentary I’m Fine. This captivating series impressed the judges with honest and articulate accounts of a variety of mental health and suicide experiences. The four contributors were remarkable, and shared their realities with momentous truth and authenticity. Together, with the warm, sensitive and empathic production values, viewers were brought on a journey that was difficult and dark at times – but ultimately these were stories that radiated with a sense of empowerment, wellness, recovery and hope.
Patrick Freyne, winner of the National Print/Online Award
The National Print or Online Journalism Award was won by Patrick Freyne for his article in The Irish Times, ‘Ireland mental health pandemic: from crisis to emergency’. Patrick placed lived experience front and centre in this piece about mental health services in Ireland. The judges felt this was a very strong piece of journalism. The reporter took a very fair approach to an important subject matter and was very thorough, comprehensive and independent. The piece was meticulously researched, featured input from contributors with lived experience of mental ill health, and clearly reflected all sides of the issue.
The Headline Impact Award, which recognises a content creator, commissioning editor, individual producer or programme who has made an exceptional contribution to coverage of mental ill health, went to Tommy Tiernan for The Tommy Tiernan Show. The judges were all struck by Tommy’s natural ability to elicit authentic conversations, to probe and to comfort in one breath, and to bring into our homes stories of ordinary people with extraordinary experiences. The space given to people to share their personal experiences of mental ill health, from loneliness to trauma to suicidal thoughts, speaks to the huge impact of The Tommy Tiernan Show, both on the interviewees themselves and audiences at home.
Meet the Judges
Education Editor, The Irish Times
Aoife’s work has taken her to some of the most fascinating and hostile parts of the world. She has worked in news, current affairs and on numerous human rights stories for over two decades. Her recent work on RTÉ documentary Schizophrenia: Voices in My Head earned her an IFTA nomination and was the first time Irish audiences saw young Irish people speak openly about daily life with schizophrenia.
Communications and Development Manager, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services
Karolyn is a communications and mental health professional with over 15 years’ experience working in the voluntary and independent mental health sector. Karolyn is passionate about promoting the voice of lived experience in mental health to drive and lead positive social change.
Communications and Fundraising Manager, Mental Health Ireland
Carmen Bryce is a former journalist and currently leads the Communications and Fundraising team at Mental Health Ireland. Carmen is a passionate advocate for putting the voice of lived experience at the heart of stigma reduction and mental health promotion. She believes that story sharing is a powerful way to challenge prejudice, support recovery, and change toxic cultures.
Communications Manager, National Office for Suicide Prevention
Ciarán works in the National Office for Suicide Prevention. He previously worked in the NGO sector, 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 of losing his youngest brother Fionnbarr through suicide in 2006.
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 prior to the Samaritans, where she leads public awareness and media campaigns.
Writer & Ambassador
Nicola is the author of Pretty Sane where she shares her story of living with schizophrenia. She featured in the IFTA-nominated documentary Schizophrenia: Voices in My Head. Nicola also works with See Change as an Ambassador.
Peter Feeney has been Ireland’s Press Ombudsman since September 2014. He worked at RTÉ for over 20 years, as Editor of Current Affairs Television and Head of Broadcast Compliance and Freedom of Information Officer. He handled over a thousand requests from journalists and the public for records held by RTÉ and advised RTÉ programme-makers on their use of FOI to obtain records.
In addition to the external panel, judges for the Voice Media Award, Impact Award and Special Recognition Award were Barbara Brennan, Shauna O’Connor and Rachel Nulty from See Change, Derek Pepper, Caroline Norris and Estela Vidal from Shine and Áine O’Meara, Elaine Haskins and Rosie Woolfson from Headline.