The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) selected four Doha-based journalists to participate in the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism (RCJF), a programme brought to Qatar through a partnership between WISH and The Carter Center. The training took place at The Carter Center, in Atlanta, Georgia, from 12–14 September.
The fellowship provides journalists with valuable insight into mental health, offering them a unique opportunity to enhance their reporting on some of the greatest health challenges facing the world today.
Buthaina Mohammed Al Janahi, a Qatari columnist at Al Arab newspaper; Tarek Bazely, Al Jazeera English’s Science and Technology editor; Aney Mathew, a contributor to Qatar Foundation’s publications; and Kathy Hearn, a TV producer for Al Jazeera English, participated in the programme.
Al Janahi said she hopes to take advantage of the fellowship to raise awareness of mental health problems that working mothers face due to the lack of self-care. Al Janahi said:
It’s not very common to see mental health issues, sometimes caused by social and professional pressures, being addressed effectively in Qatar. This training with The Carter Center has equipped me with the tools to address such issues.’
Hearn and Bazely, each with more than 15 years’ experience reporting across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, aspire to offer the world a better understanding of mental health problems through Al Jazeera’s English shows. Bazely said:
This fellowship provided a unique opportunity for me to help enhance the way Al Jazeera reports on one of the world’s greatest health challenges, that is, mental health, and I hope to contribute towards highlighting and raising awareness on this subject in the region.’
Egbert Schillings, Chief Executive Officer of WISH, said:
Under the guidance of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Qatar is taking a proactive approach toward increasing support for those coping with mental health issues. Unfortunately, the stigmatisation of mental health issues can often deter individuals from seeking treatment and support. Because the media plays a key role in combatting negative views of mental illnesses, we are delighted to be working with The Carter Center to help journalists report sensitively and accurately.’
WISH, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), will manage the fellowships in Qatar by facilitating media training and adapting the programme to meet the needs of local media. The Carter Center, meanwhile, provided journalists with training in Atlanta in addition to various educational materials, mentorship, evaluation tools and technical expertise to ensure a sustainable and tailored programme for Qatar.
Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter said:
These fellows can reshape how the media in the Middle East covers one of the most misunderstood public health problems and ultimately help to end unfair stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses.’
The partnership with The Carter Center underscores WISH’s longstanding commitment to raising awareness of issues around mental health and developing evidence-based research to address related policy challenges, such as those facing dementia and autism.
WISH’s involvement with The Carter Center was first discussed in March 2015, when former US president Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter travelled to Doha and met with representatives from WISH. They explored areas of potential collaboration to achieve shared goals of advancing mental health policy.
In December 2015, The Carter Center and WISH hosted a policy briefing with local stakeholders at Weill Cornell Medicine –Qatar (WCM-Q) to examine issues of mental health. Local media, medical professionals, allied healthcare workers, medical students and other stakeholders expressed a shared desire to work together to improve mental health reporting. Enhancing journalists’ abilities to cover mental health was identified as key to achieving this goal. The Carter Center subsequently invited WISH to select a number of journalists to take part in its fellowship programme.
For nearly two decades, the centre has awarded one-year fellowships to 165 journalists, connecting them with resources and expertise to enhance their ability to cover mental health issues around the world. The programme is currently implemented in the United States, Colombia and the UAE, and was previously in New Zealand, South Africa and Romania.
Since the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism were established in 1996, fellows have produced more than 1,500 stories, documentaries, books, and other works during and after their fellowship year. Their projects have garnered Emmy Awards, nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, and other awards.
These four journalists will share their experiences and some of their work at WISH 2016, which will take place from 29–30 November in Doha, Qatar.
For a complete list of QF’s initiatives and projects, visit qf.org.qa.