The Caribbean decides to enhance mental health issues reported in this pandemic

By Rumi Samuel Published on August 01, 2021
The Caribbean decides to enhance mental health issues reported in this pandemic

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says Caribbean journalists and communicators are preparing for the challenges of reporting on mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they recently guided reporting responsibly on matters related to the pandemic.

On Friday,  the issue was among several that PAHO  explored with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), in collaboration with the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), during a virtual training series on ethical reporting during the pandemic. 

“One of the objectives of the four-part series was to provide tools to help communicators provide informative, responsible, safe, and evidence-based coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on mental health-related topics, despite the proliferation of false information.”

“COVID-19, because it is a new virus and because it is highly contagious, the information and evidence around it have been evolving at a fast pace.  This has fueled rumours and false information, which has spread faster than the outbreak itself. As professionals working in this space, we have the responsibility of keeping up with the evidence and ensuring that the public is properly informed,”  said PAHO’s coordinator of the Caribbean Subregional Programme, Jessie Schutt-Aine, who also explained the importance of the training session. 

 Against that background, PAHO said the first webinar in the series, “Key epidemiological and ethical concepts for reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic, including mental health and psychosocial aspects and tips for self-care," was held on June 18, 2020, provided an introduction to ethical aspects of journalistic coverage.  

Journalists guided on how to interpret basic epidemiological concepts and an overview of mental health issues in the context of COVID-19, PAHO said. 

“Our communities are reliant on you as communications professionals to provide responsible and evidence-based coverage of the pandemic,” said Deidre Clarendon, chief of the Social Sector Division of the CDB, told participants.  

In addition to helping the journalists and communicators understand the technical terminology used during outbreaks and epidemics and how to ensure accurate and sensitive reporting on aspects of a pandemic, PAHO said the webinar included presentations from Caribbean journalists reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic on the ground. 

Following the training series, participants were invited to enter the PAHO/CDB/CBU Awards, “Celebrating Responsible Coverage of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support During COVID-19,” allowing them to demonstrate their ability to cover the pandemic responsibly, using evidence-based information to reflect topics and key recommendations raised during the training.

PAHO said the virtual training series was part of a wider PAHO/CDB project, “Building individual and social resilience to cope with the impacts of natural hazard events: enhancing capacity for mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management in the Caribbean,” which was designed to build individual and social resilience to cope with the impacts of various shocks. 

The three-year project began after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and was expanded to address the impacts of COVID-19, PAHO said.

Rumi Samuel

Rumi Samuel

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