Youth United at the JEA National Convention!

This past weekend, Lia and I presented about Youth United at the Journalism Education Association National Convention in Anaheim, California. Designed for an audience of student journalists, our presentation focused on how to responsibly report on suicide but also touched on the overall current representations of mental health in the media.

We decided to switch up the presentation we had been using previously to include more interactive components that would allow us to engage with our audience. Because this was a national convention, we really wanted to hear stories and input from student journalists about their own experiences with this topic in their communities across the country.

To our surprise and much delight, many of our audience members were willing to share their experiences and give their own input about mental health media representation. Our main point of discussion was around the representation of mental illness in movies and TV shows. Many of our audience members were already highly educated on the serious implications of irresponsible media such as those resulting from the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Some students also shared their liking of particular shows which, in their opinion, responsibly depicted mental health issues. One audience member described how they thought that the Netflix movie To The Bone showed an accurate depiction of an eating disorder and deeply resonated with them as a viewer.

Some audiences members came up to talk with us briefly after the presentation, giving us positive feedback and wondering how they could get involved with the Youth United initiative. One student asked for our advice on how to responsibly report on a suicide epidemic at their high school.

This experience brought to light the effectiveness of interactive presentations which engage audiences to share their own stories and participate in open discussions on mental health media representations. Lia and I, along with the rest of the Youth United team, are excited to continue initiating these conversations and educate the next generation of journalists on the importance of practicing these guidelines throughout their future careers working in the media.

Ellie Fitton