Mental Health & Health Communication: New Projects for a New Academic Year

Mental Health & Health Communication: New Projects for a New Academic Year

By Mike Mackert

Last year the Center for Health Communication (CHC) launched a 2-year theme on mental health and health communication. When we began that effort, we weren't exactly sure what it might entail — it was the first time the CHC would be pursuing a theme like this. But we knew we wanted it to be a way to make new connections across campus, as faculty, staff, and students with interests in mental health might learn about the CHC through the theme. It also could provide opportunities for those already interested in health communication to pursue a new context in mental health.

Last spring we hosted a symposium, which featured some great speakers and a flash funding competition that awarded research support for several faculty teams and a student-led project. It was an exciting way to start wrapping up the first year of the theme and set the stage for the second year.

Now as we start that second year, we're about to pursue several new projects focused on mental health and health communication, led by our new postdoctoral fellow Heather Voorhees. First, we will be developing a whitepaper that aims to summarize current challenges and issues related to communicating about mental health, highlight best practices and guidelines for improving such communication, and propose research that might further advance understanding of how to most effectively communicate about mental health. Second, we will be developing curriculum materials to be used in the education of health and communication professionals, which will be distributed in Summer 2020 for adoption by educators who would like to use them. More details about this work, which is supported by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, is available here.

I'm excited for the work in the year ahead, and I hope this theme will continue to be a way the CHC can make new connections with external partners and facilitate new collaborations for faculty, staff, and students interested in issues related to mental health and health communication. The CHC's social media (Twitter and Facebook) will be good sources for updates on this work, because we'll be sharing interesting research, infographics, and other resources all year are we pursue the whitepaper and curriculum development.