Journalists need self-care to serve public better – Dr Amissah

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Repeated exposure to traumatic and violent scenes can affect and wear journalists down, and so media practitioners must take care of their mental health so they can serve the public better. Dr. Caroline Amissah, Deputy Chief Executive of the Mental Health Authority advised participants at the just ended two-day workshop on ‘Mental health reporting training for journalists’ held in Tamale on January 11 and 12, 2022.

“You are often called to cover issues of trauma. It may be your duty to report, but self-care is a priority and a necessity – not a luxury – in the work place. As soon as you realize that something’s not going well with you, it is time to seek help, or self-care.”

Dr. Amissah said self-care helps to cool down, refresh and reboot for optimal service.

“Know when you need a break, and de-clutter your life,” she said in the Northern Region capital.

Dr. Amma Boadu, Deputy Director for Mental Health at the Ghana Health Service was a resource person at the workshop. She explained that mental illness is a state where an individual’s well-being and optimal potential are compromised.

Dr. Amma Boadu, Dep. Dir. for Mental Health, GHS

“We are all susceptible to mental ill-health. Up to 40% of Ghanaians have one form or another of mental illness, resulting in 20% of lost healthy days. Mental health issues are therefore common and can affect anyone. But there are periods in a person’s life when it becomes an illness and impairs functionality. That is when you have to seek professional help.”

The workshops have been held in Greater Accra, Ashanti and now Northern regions. They have brought about 160 senior media practitioners to meet mental health professionals, persons with lived experiences, and media scholars to discuss media depictions of mental health difficulties and suicide as an important element in shaping how the public understands the issues and how relevant agencies devise strategies to advocate and reduce stigma.

Dr. Yaw A. Arthur, Acting Head of Health Promotion at MHA said the training sessions were to bridge the story gap between what’s going on and what people need to know.

“It will help us understand how journalists deal with the challenges of sensitivity to suicide, balancing public and private interests, challenges to reporting facts, finding appropriate professional sources, and interpreting guidelines on reporting. This will then help us help the media and advocacy agencies to improve the nature of coverage of mental health difficulties and suicide in media output.”

Dr. Yaw Arthur, Ag. Head, Health Promotion, MHA

The Mental Health Authority (MHA) is an agency established by an Act of Parliament, Mental Health Act 846 of 2012, to propose, promote and implement mental health policies and provide culturally appropriate, humane and integrated mental health care throughout Ghana.

The agency’s helplines are 0303964878 and 0274435261.

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