The COVID-19 pandemic put many Americans’ mental health in crisis across the country. This Mental Health Awareness Month, local radio and TV stations are connecting their communities with the resources and stories they need to take control of their mental health. With reporters who live in and understand their communities, broadcasters are uniquely positioned to serve these needs.
For many stations, mental health awareness is a part of year-round features to support healthy communities. Nexstar Media-owned CBS 42 in Birmingham, Ala., airs a regular segment with local doctor Celeste Reese-Willis, who took this opportunity to encourage viewers struggling with mental health to reach out to family, friends or doctors.
Hearst Television’s WBAL TV in Baltimore, Md., used their regular mental health segment “Maryland Peace of Mind” to discuss the impact of the pandemic on mental health care with Kerry Graves, executive director of the Metro Baltimore arm of the National Alliance on Mental Health. “The demand on our mental health system is incredibly high,” Graves said.
Another health professional, licensed clinical social worker Deon Aaron, told Sinclair Broadcast Group’s KATV in Little Rock, Ark., that Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity "to let people know it's okay to get help with their mental health, and that paying attention to how they feel and their thoughts, it's okay.”
In addition to these experts, broadcasters connect their communities with personal stories that bring issues to life. Audacy-owned KWY News Radio in Philadelphia, Pa., spoke to local artist JP Weber about using his work as therapy.
Fox owned-and-operated station Fox 13 News in Tampa, Fla., interviewed nonprofit organization Tampa Bay Thrives about their initiative to light up the city green to promote mental health awareness this month. "If we can decrease the stigma and start to normalize talking about mental health just as if it is our physical health it will go a long way toward helping people heal faster and feel better," said Tampa Bay Thrives President and CEO Carrie Zeisse.
iHeart’s WBZ News Radio in Boston, Mass., shared an initiative from the region’s Blue Cross Blue Shield to promote mental health and self-care by providing free bike share passes during the month. The "Miles for Mental Health" initiative aims to promote regular exercise through cycling, which can ease stress levels and improve sleep quality. WBZ and other local media stations are an important avenue for getting the word out about community projects.
Nexstar Media-owned WMBD in Peoria, Ill., promoted a fundraising effort for a new children’s behavioral health facility in the area. “May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and local doctors, as well as national data, show that more children suffer from mental health issues than ever before,” according to the station.
Gray Communications-owned WJBR 6 in Superior, Wis., shared outreach efforts from the local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Health. “I think any awareness is incredibly important because it normalizes mental health,” said Dave Longsdorf, deputy director of Health and Human Services for Douglas County. “If you can get help at the front end of when you’re starting to have problems, things go so much more smoothly.”
More than 2.47 million American jobs depend on broadcasting, and the local broadcast radio and television industry - and the businesses that depend on it - generate $1.17 trillion annually for the nation's economy.