Awareness does not mean action
As a writer, it's important to remember this when 'awareness' days/weeks/months come around
Those of you who have been here a while know that alongside my freelancing career and running The Indiependent, I have a day job in marketing for a higher education provider. This week I was tasked with writing an article and newsletter aimed at students about Mental Health Awareness week, which this year revolved around the theme of ‘nature’.
Having been on the receiving end of well-intentioned emails from my own university back when I was a student with anxiety and depression, I know how meaningless some of the mental health awareness platitudes can be. Over the last week, I’ve watched as media outlets and brands have released their own content slate, and I’ve raised my eyebrows on more than one occasion at how ridiculous some of the ‘awareness’ content is. People in the throes of a depressive episode struggle to brush their teeth and shower, they’re hardly going to want to go for a brisk walk around the block or meet a friend for coffee.
I’ve been sent regular wellbeing emails by my employer during lockdown, and there was an all-staff mental health webinar during the height of the pandemic that reiterated the importance of physical exercise to improve your mental wellbeing. It was an engaging and entertaining session delivered by a third party speaker who had firsthand experience of mental health problems at work, but this talk and the company’s reaction to it still felt a little awkward and stilted. And that’s no surprise when people would still rather feign a physical illness when calling in sick than confess to needing a mental health day. As a nation, we are slowly making steps to improve our attitude to mental wellbeing, but saying “It’s OK to talk about your mental health” one week out of 52 isn’t going to lead to radical change.
I know these ‘awareness’ weeks and my company’s interaction with them come from the right place: the senior leadership wants to foster an atmosphere where students feel empowered to talk to support staff about any mental health issues they may be experiencing. They also want staff to feel comfortable talking to their line managers if they are struggling, and they want staff to access the employee assistance programme which includes counselling and a 24/7 mental health service.
I’m not knocking my employer for choosing to engage with Mental Health Awareness week: rather, I wanted to focus on my own discomfort. As someone with experience of mental health issues, I am uniquely positioned to tell my employer and the relevant business units how students with these issues want to be addressed. So in the end, I used it as a teaching opportunity. I also resolved to keep the momentum up for the other 51 weeks of the year.
If, like me, you feel uncomfortable about writing content for an ‘awareness day’ or month, perhaps that’s rooted in your own failure to address these subjects at other points in the year. If you posted about Black History in October, what are you doing to educate yourself for the other eleven months of the year? If you’ve got a suite of LGBTQ+ pitches primed for June in time for Pride Month, what are you doing to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ issues the rest of the year? Awareness days, weeks, months are a great way of coming up with content ideas, but let’s not forget the key issues at the heart of them. Real change comes from continuous conversations and putting pressure on those primed to make changes to the status quo.
… in editing
I edited Elouise Hobbs’ great feature ‘Breaking the algorithm to fix music’s gender divide’, which is a great piece on new research that has revealed music streaming algorithms disproportionately recommend male artists.
… in writing
Articles written: 0
I made some edits to a commission that is being published in an anthology, and I had a slow week ideas wise so didn’t pitch anything new.
Articles published: 1
I had a piece published in The Daily Express on Monday on the rise of furlough fibbers — people who’ve been ‘deepfaking’ their work, or lying to friends/family about being furloughed out of perceived shame or embarrassment.
… in listening/watching
I binge-watched the first series of Married At First Sight (UK), available on All 4, and came to the conclusion that men are trash. Thanks for coming to my TedTalk.
… in reading
I finished Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking With Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything which I wholeheartedly recommend
I used to be a supervisor in an Italian restaurant and before that I worked in a Spoons… so I tip my hat at anyone currently working in hospitality. This was a great read from Polly Smyth for Huck: ‘The hospitality workers losing out on tips amid Covid’
Great piece by James Marriott for The Times: ‘If you want to get ahead, ditch your creativity’
A real case of ‘I wish I had actually pitched this when I had the idea’ with this piece from Natalie Morris: ‘The psychology of voice notes: why we all fell in love with audio messaging’
Two great pieces on Ellen: this one by Adrian Horton for The Guardian and this one by Eleanor Margolis for The Telegraph
Loved this by Kat Smith for The Guardian: ‘Why I am deleting Goodreads and maybe you should, too’
Charlotte Colombo’s Digital Spy piece ‘How BoJack Horseman helped me accept being on anti-depressants’ was honest and brilliant
This Bloomberg piece by Thomas Buckley and Jeremy Scott Diamond is really cool multimedia journalism: ‘Pret sandwich sales show officer workers staying home’
Loved this review of Build A Problem by dodie for Clash by Lucy Harbron
I thought this feature by Rachel Aroesti for The Guardian was great: ‘‘You’re toxic!’ Can TV shows survive when their star becomes a scandal’
There’s a free discussion ‘Can truth survive the new journalism’ on 19 May from 7-8.30 pm on 19 May with Bari Weiss, Mick Hume, Katie Herzog and Helen Lewis that looks interesting.
On 22 June The Guardian Live is hosting a lunchtime event on ‘The importance of newsroom diversity’. Starts at 1.00pm, and is in partnership with The University of Manchester.
Birmingham: A central Birmingham business is looking for a content author/writer
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Birmingham: The BBC is looking for an executive news editor
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