Our workshops take approximately two and a half hours. This means that students have ample time to ask questions on the guidelines and surrounding issues, and to work through the material.
The session begins with a presentation which takes the students step by step through the guidelines with examples of headlines, facts, and statistics. Students are encouraged to ask any questions they may have along the way. The presentation takes approximately 40 minutes.
Following a short break, students are divided into small groups and given the first part of a case study. We use two case studies during workshops for variety, so that half of the participants work on one, while the other half receives a different one. Case studies are fictional scenarios that centre around mental illness or suicide. Students are asked to read through the initial, limited information and think about a headline as well as the angle they would take when reporting on the story. After a discussion on any challenges they encountered, students are given further information which include Gardaí press releases, statements, and interview transcripts. They are then asked to choose what elements they would include in their story and finalise the outline of their report.
After another short break the group is given a recent, real example from a national broadcaster of an interview which deals with the issue of suicide. Students are encouraged to think about what aspects of the interview they think are responsible and what elements may be harmful. There is then a quick fire round during which students are given flashcards with brief scenarios and have 2-3 minutes to identify which guidelines are most relevant and what pitfalls may occur with the given situation.
Finally, we brief the students on Headline research, any recent developments in the media and mental health sector, and we allow plenty of time for any questions or difficulties they had.
Due to the sensitive nature of the material, trigger warnings are given before and during the workshop to alert students who may need to leave the room or seek further support.
In order to gauge how helpful our workshop and material is to the students’ understanding of mental ill health reporting, we conduct pre and post-workshop surveys. Our pre-workshop survey is emailed to lecturers a week before the training is due to take place and we ask that lecturers forward this to students who will be attending on the day. Immediately following the training, we send out our post-workshop survey.
Before booking our workshop, it is important to note that the presentation and case studies include details of suicide methodology. As outlined above, our workshops are always prefaced by a trigger warning for students and include contact details for support services which students can access. All Headline team members are trained in safeTALK and our education lead is additionally trained in Mental Health First Aid. Any student who needs to leave the room is checked on to ensure that they are offered support in the case of distress and are referred to further services if necessary.
We understand that discussing suicide methodology with students can be of concern, especially as there may be students who have had personal experience of suicidal thoughts, or the suicide of a loved one. While these details can be distressing, it is of the utmost importance to Headline that students are prepared for the difficult information they may encounter in the course of their future work. By introducing the upsetting nature of suicide reporting in a safe environment, with access to supports and the freedom to voice any distress during or after class, we can avoid the potentially harmful situation where students may be exposed to this topic for the first time during their work, in a pressurised environment, with potentially no supports available.
We encourage any lecturers, heads of department, or class coordinators to contact our education lead Sinéad Keating – firstname.lastname@example.org – to talk through any concerns relating to the content of our workshop.
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.