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Journalists edified on mental health reporting

Feb 19, 2016, 10:46 AM | Article By: Isatou Senghore-Njie

Journalists have been advised to be very careful when sending message on mental health as in many publications, although not common, “they some times use the word like madness or lunatic in newspapers”.

They were advised at a daylong training workshop for media personnel on mental health positive and ethical reporting issues.

The workshop was organised by the Directorate of Health Services and Mental Health and Prevention of Substance Abuse of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in partnership with Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Programme (MHLAP).

Speaking at the ceremony held at the NaNA conference hall, Dawda Samba, country facilitator of MHLAP, said the mental health leadership and advocacy programme was founded in The Gambia in 2012.

It is a programme running in all West African English-speaking countries and the project had two basic objectives: to build the capacity of leaders and advocacy and awareness as their primary focus.

“You are among those leaders because you control your pen, you have your mind and you talk to the whole population through the radio and newspapers which are very important means of communication and are very influential to every single citizen in the country,” he said.

According to him, it was important that when sending messages on mental health issues they have in mind the stigma it might cause the sick person, hence should try to report such situations ethically.

He said the person may not have the opportunity to go to the media establishment to turn around the information, which is always regrettable.

He, therefore, urged reporters to be very careful when reporting or sending messages on mental health, adding that he had seen being used in many publications words such as madness or lunatic.

He said there are better terms that could be used instead, such as person with mental health problem or better still the name of the person.

Momodou Gassama from the World Health Organisation (WHO) country office, in his remarks, said the training was important to the Ministry of Health, as mental health “is the most neglected part of health anywhere in the world including The Gambia.

“Mental health is not given the attention it deserves worldwide,” he said.

He said further: “We all have a role in his and I have no doubt that the orientation will be very meaningful and useful to all of us in disseminating messages on mental health to the public.”

For his part, Babacarr Cham of City Limits Radio said the media is very important and instrumental in whatever they do in terms of advocacy, especially regarding the critical issue of mental health.

The ceremony was chaired by Bakary Sonko, programme manager, mental health and prevention of substance abuse, at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare