In times of crisis, Americans turn to their local radio and television stations for the most trusted news to stay safe and informed. America’s broadcasters have been at their best during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing fact-based journalism, breaking news, vaccine education and supporting local businesses.
Here are examples of how local stations are supporting their communities during this critical time.
During Mental Health Awareness month, which took place in May, local television and radio broadcasters shined a light on the importance of discussing mental health issues. These local stations focused on their communities’ emotional wellbeing and provided resources and tools to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and save lives.
Alaska Public Media dedicated the May 5 episode of their weekly “Line One” call-in show to listener questions and comments related to mental, behavioral and emotional wellness. Host Prentiss Pemberton and psychiatrist Dr. Richard Holt connected with listeners on the phone and via email and discussed issues such as the shortage of in-patient services for mental health patients, tips for coping with anxiety and how to be tolerant in today’s world.
Nexstar Media Group’s Fox affiliate WXIN Indianapolis, Ind., highlighted a new national campaign, Sound It Out, which launched on April 29 ahead of Mental Health Awareness Month. The campaign uses the power of music to help parents and caregivers have conversations about emotional wellbeing with their middle schoolers. Music can help bridge the gap between adults and their children, and the website provides guidance on how to broach sensitive topics and have meaningful discussions.
Univision Communications Inc. is a founding partner in the first-ever “Mental Health Action Day” held on May 20 in an effort to empower the Hispanic community to take action on mental health. In partnership with NBCUniversal, MTV and nearly 200 brands, nonprofits and cultural leaders, people were encouraged and empowered to take their first steps towards mental health action for themselves, their loved ones or to advocate for systemic changes. Resources and tools are available on mentalhealthactionday.org for people to seek help.
Throughout May, the eight ABC-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno aired special mental health-related programming, held town halls and spotlighted community resources to raise awareness of mental health. The stations also participated in the first “Mental Health Action Day” on May 20. The initiative kicked off on WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham on May 6 with the half-hour special “Eyewitness News Investigates: The Silent Struggle,” which explored how the pandemic, loss, loneliness and racial trauma has led to more people experiencing mental health crises. Other content included a virtual town hall on May 13, “Our Chicago: Voices of the Community,” presented by WLS-TV Chicago that explored mental health issues in children and adolescents, and a virtual town hall on May 20, “Minding Your Mental Health,” presented by WPVI-TV Philadelphia that discussed general mental health awareness, the impact of the pandemic on children and increased suicide rates.
Townsquare Media’s KTWO-AM Casper, Wyo., aired a report on May 18 about the “WY We Talk” statewide initiative that began in February to help educate people in Wyoming about the need to address mental health issues that often go undiscussed. The Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police and the Wyoming Prevention Action Alliance partnered on the mental health campaign, as Wyoming has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and mental health is even more important now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "People I think are stigmatized and don't want to talk about mental health or suicide or feel like the Wyoming way is to just suck it up and deal with it. We want to change those norms and change those conversations, so that's why we started the WY We Talk campaign," said Hailey Bloom, community prevention director for Natrona County.
On May 7, The E.W. Scripps Company’s Fox affiliate WXMI Grand Rapids, Mich., spoke with Dr. Lyndsay Volpe-Bertram, section chief of psychology at Spectrum Health, to encourage those who may need help to find resources available to them. Mental health has become a common topic of discussion since the start of the pandemic, and while some people may just need a close friend to confide in, Dr. Volpe-Bertram encouraged those who might be struggling or overly stressed to seek out professional help. She also emphasized the expansion of resources such as teletherapy options to help those who may be nervous or hesitant to see someone.
Hearst Television’s NBC affiliate WLWT Cincinnati, Ohio, reported on May 25 about how teenage students are dealing with mental health issues that were heightened during the pandemic and how educators are offering support as they prepare for reentry into classrooms in the fall. “Before the pandemic, our number one issues were anxiety and depression. And so that continued through the pandemic," said Rachel Searcy, director of Student Services, Oak Hills School District. She added that they learned the need to emphasize working with all students, not just a select few, and find new coping strategies and ways to relieve mental stress.
More than 2.47 million American jobs depend on broadcasting, and the local broadcast radio and television industry - and the businesses that depend on it - generate $1.17 trillion annually for the nation's economy.