Mental Health & Health Communication: What Could a 2-Year Theme Achieve?

Mental Health & Health Communication: What Could a 2-Year Theme Achieve?

By Mike Mackert

Since the Center for Health Communication (CHC) announced its 2-year theme on mental health and health communication, I’ve been contacted by a number of faculty and students across UT and organizations outside the university. If one goal of this theme was to invite new people to get engaged with the CHC, it has been a promising start.

I’ve been struck by the remarkable diversity of issues that have come up in these conversations. It has varied from discussing how the media covers news stories about mental health to the mental health concerns that can arise from a new cancer diagnosis. One of the reasons we picked mental health as a theme was that we knew it would generate interest from people working across a host of health issues and populations, but it has still been exciting to see how many people recognize the important intersection of mental health, other health issues, and communication.

At the same time, these conversations have truly spanned the full range of communication channels that those involved with the CHC study in their research. It has gone from how clinicians might better talk to patients about mental health concerns to the way in which mass media campaigns could play a role in reducing the stigma associated with mental health.

While we’re still very much in the planning stages of this theme, it’s getting easier to see not only how the theme might work (e.g., inviting in mental health organizations to share their work at CHC monthly meetings) but also how research launched as a result of this theme might change how oncologists talk to patients about the mental health concerns associated with a new cancer diagnosis. Or how studying social media conversations around mental health might offer avenues for understanding how stigma associated with mental health is perpetuated. Or how mobile apps might be an avenue for connecting people with mental health concerns to appropriate peer support. The list is endless.

We still have more planning to do this summer, but I’m increasingly excited about what this theme will accomplish over the next two years. If you want to get involved, e-mail