Aussie metros tackle mental health in youth-orientated podcast

Mar 30, 2022 at 09:41 pm by admin

After a seven-month gestation period, Nine metros The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald have launched a first episode of a new podcast series on youth mental health.

In an INMA blog this week, social affairs editor Jewel Topsfield and deputy lifestyle editor Sophie Aubrey tell of the process of development for the Australian publisher, working with producer Margaret Gordon.

“The pandemic really opened up the discussion around the subject,” Aubrey says. “Not only were we reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s mental health, but we were living it.

“Many of us at The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald personally know children, adolescents, and young adults whose lives were scrambled, with rites of passage stolen by the pandemic.”

With COVID exacerbating a problem that was already on the rise, they set out to create the six-part podcast – called Enough – and make it compelling listening.

“While mental health is a crucial topic, we are painfully aware it can sometimes be hard to compel people to read articles about it,” says Topsfield.

One possible reason is that it can be a difficult subject to read about. “And, in a sea of news that already skews negative, the reality is that sometimes these important stories can get lost,” she says. Another possible factor is that news stories on mental health quite often rely on population-wide research and data, or comments from mental health sector leaders.

“Regardless of how strong these are, they can sometimes fail to pique interest without the voices of people who are really living it. Not to mention the fact we are in the business of dealing with tight word limits.”

Mental health is a topic young people are passionate about, a 2021 Mission Australia survey having found 42 per cent of its 20,000 respondents, aged 15-19, were “extremely” or “very concerned” about mental health.

With telling more stories that will engage younger Australians, one of the newsrooms’ big goals this year – and podcasts an important medium for the age group – a podcast was the perfect vehicle to invite young people to tell what they were going through and what helped them.

The weekly episodes explore themes such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, plus there are a few bonus episodes “in the works”.

It introduces listeners to 18-year-old Alex, who is transgender, and dealt with depression and self-harm; and Daniel, who was on 24/7 suicide watch for months because of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. “He’s unrecognisable now: His stutter no longer bothers him, and he’s a foster parent at 22 years old.”

And, you hear from Portia, a young indigenous woman who explains how intergenerational trauma and racial discrimination have contributed to her suffering from anxiety.

“This is a different type of podcast for our newsrooms,” says Aubrey. “Typically, our audio offerings cover news of the day or investigations, whereas we were clear from the beginning that this series would really be led by the lived experiences of young people, with expert advice and news supporting their stories.

“The episodes get into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to have mental illness – to experience suicidal thoughts, a panic attack, disordered eating – and how to cope.

“We believe that by telling these stories, we can not only engender more compassion and understanding, but also make youth mental health a national priority for this country. This is especially important in a federal election year with an overwhelmed mental health system and months-long waiting lists to see a psychologist.

“With Enough, we want young Australians to be heard.”


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