It’s been seven months since we learned that Positive News had won a grant – our first to date – to produce a year-long series of solutions journalism articles. Our pitch was to focus on community-led projects that are boosting mental health in the economically developing world, where spending on mental health care is minimal or non-existent.
Focusing on creative, grassroots approaches to improving wellbeing in the face of huge societal problems such as climate change, war or gender inequality, we knew would tap into a rich seam of stories.
And so it was a huge moment for us as an organisation – on a number of levels beyond the basic financials (thank you to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Journalism Centre) – when we heard that our application had been successful.
Since 1993, Positive News has been a pioneer in solutions journalism, driven by the belief that people deserve a more balanced and hopeful view of the world than what traditional media, with its ‘if it bleeds it leads’ approach to newsgathering, serves up.
The grant has enabled us to cast our net wider in terms of the scope of our stories, and has meant that we can spread solutions journalism further than ever before.
In just the first three months since our series kicked off, we have given one-on-one solutions journalism training to the Kenyan, Zimbabwean and British journalists that were commissioned to write the first stories. All reported back that these sessions were inspirational and illuminating and that they’d be incorporating what they’d learned into their journalism in the future.
Journalists have told us that it’s unusual to find an outlet for stories on the topic of mental health in the global south
Some of the writers we’ve worked with were already experienced in solutions journalism. They have told us that not only is the funding to produce more solutions-based reporting very welcome, but that it’s unusual to find an outlet for stories on the topic of mental health in the global south.
Traditional newspapers generally cover health in these regions through the angle of better funded issues like sanitation and disease prevention. Mental health, meanwhile, is largely ignored. This is despite the fact that it’s a problem that underpins almost every challenge across global development, from poverty and educational attainment to gender inequality, and has been identified as a key priority in international development by the United Nations.
So from the Kenyan programme that is breaking the intergenerational cycle of FGM by giving trauma-informed therapy to survivors, to the free sports club that is spreading across Yemen and boosting wellbeing following decades of civil war, and the grandmothers trained to give CBT on park benches in Zimbabwe, we’ve uncovered tales of lives being transformed via low-cost, replicable, grassroots mental healthcare.
As the rest of the series unfolds, we hope to report on many more stories of resilience and hope from across the globe.
Main image: Henri Mathieu-Saint-Laurent
Developing mental wealth is a series produced by Positive News and funded by the European Journalism Centre, through the Solutions Journalism Accelerator. This fund is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
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