STUDENT Workshop Overview
Our student workshops take approximately two and a half hours. This allows students 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. There is also a section on the guidelines in context. This focuses on topics that can make the guidelines challenging to apply, such as murder-suicide, court reporting, and the suicide of a high-profile person. The presentation also covers working with contributors, and there are radio examples included in this section. Students are encouraged to listen to the interviews through the lens of the guidelines, and identify what elements are responsible, and what could have been done differently. 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. This case study is a fictional scenario surrounding mental illness. 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 includes four fictional interview transcripts. They are then asked to choose what elements they would include in their story and finalise the outline of their report
The workshop then moves into the documentary section. Students are shown two clips from an Irish documentary on the experiences of the Gardaí when they respond to mental health calls. Following the clips, there is a group discussion on the challenges of balancing storytelling with responsible reporting.
Self-care for media professionals is an important aspect of our work within Headline, and since introducing our Burnout Workshops for professionals in 2021, we have included a section within our student workshop as well. This is so students are made aware of the difficulties that they may face when reporting on traumatic incidents, including stories relating to mental ill health and suicide. We talk the students through vicarious trauma and secondary traumatic stress, what they can do to manage any difficulties that may arise for them, as well as where to access supports in college and as a professional.
Headline Mental Health Media Awards
Every year, the Headline Mental Health Media Awards take place in December. The awards recognise excellence in mental health media coverage, and there is a student category. This award is given for any media content on mental health created by students during their course. The content can be for print or broadcast – an article, radio documentary, podcast, TV documentary etc. There are 5 entries shortlisted, and each of these nominees will be invited to attend the ceremony, where they will be seated with senior editors and producers from publishers and broadcasters across the country. The winner will receive a one-week placement with The Journal, as well as a €500 bursary when the placement is taken up.
During the student workshop, students are strongly encouraged to think about creating mental health content and to submit it for the awards, as it is an excellent opportunity to have their work recognised. Submissions open in September, and students in their final year are eligible to submit a piece during the September of the year that they graduate.
Content Warning and Feedback
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 to talk through any concerns relating to the content of our workshop.
Feedback forms are distributed to the students at the beginning of the workshop. There is a short section to complete before the workshop begins, and another section at the end. This allows us to gauge how useful the workshop is to the students, and helps us to continually evaluate the content within the workshop. A feedback form is also sent to lecturers following the training to gather their thoughts, suggests, and comments.