36509 The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism Program (JFP) Evaluation

Robin McGee, MPH, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA and Stephanie Uribe, M.Ed., M.Sc., Mental Health Program, The Carter Center, Atlanta, GA

Background:  The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism Program (JFP) is The Carter Center’s primary activity that targets reducing stigma around mental illnesses. This presentation aims to provide background on the JFP, explain evaluation methods and results, and share conclusions of our efforts as they pertain to the program and the greater health communications/media community.

Program background:  Better informed reporting about mental illnesses through the JFP has the potential to decrease stigma and discrimination, encourage those living with mental illnesses to seek treatment, and create positive change in the policies and support systems that serve them.  By educating journalist and reducing the prevalence of sensationalized, inaccurate information, journalists’ projects have the power to improve health and create positive change in how their newsrooms report on mental health issues.  The JFP provides $10,000 stipends and other support to journalists, enabling them to explore a self-selected topic related to mental health or mental illnesses over the course of one year.  The Fellowship Program challenges recipients to delve deeper into a mental health issue, developing knowledge and skills that they may use throughout their careers.  The primary target population for the Fellowship Program is professional journalists in all forms of media.  The program has awarded over 150 fellowships to national and international journalists in its 18-year history and continues to award up to ten fellowships annually.  The secondary target population is consumers of Fellowship Program projects.  

Evaluation Methods and Results:  The JFP program was evaluated using a variety of methods, which are described below with the results.

  1. Content Analysis of Fellowship Projects: Using Associated Press Stylebook standards on mental illness, 94 print media fellowship articles were coded to understand whether fellowship participants accurately implemented skills gained from JFP participation. Each article received a score. Results will be shared in the presentation.
  2. Alumni Survey: An online survey assessing the fellowship experience and continued work related to mental health was sent to 132 alumni. Preliminary analyses show a 50% response rate spanning cohorts through 2012. 64% reported that their projects received additional coverage after publication. 60% reported changes in their newsroom from their participation in the fellowship program. 60% continued reporting on mental health after their fellowship year.   
  3. Case Studies: 9 case studies (spanning different media forms, genders, and ethnic groups) are being completed to provide an in-depth look at the fellowship projects that were successful in prompting change. We will present results from two fellowship projects that resulted in significant policy change. One fellowship project contributed to increases in mental health budgets, and another project contributed to the shutting down of a hospital where patients received inhumane treatment.

Conclusions: Forthcoming.

Implications for research and/or practice:  The results from this evaluation will be shared with other communities targeting mental health, media, and communications, to improve the way mental health is portrayed in the media and in journalism curricula. In addition, the results will help identify opportunities for improving reporting on mental health that may be addressed by The JFP and other interested parties.