Collaborative news to study mental health challenges and solutions in southwest Michigan

Kalamazoo, Michigan – Local news outlets in southwest Michigan work together to enhance the news landscape, promote diversity, and include voices among journalists and news sources.

The group of media and news organizations is called the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative, and its first major project focuses on mental health.

“This mental health project is a huge step forward for the cooperative,” said Miki Ciocaglu, director of local news at MLive, which includes the Kalamazoo Gazette. “This gives us an area of ​​focus to turn our attention to as we learn to work closely with each other to cover important issues in society.”

The collaborative began in 2019 to determine how local media leaders, in today’s landscape of shrinking news organizations and employees, can work together to tell the stories that matter most in our community.

Since the first meeting in 2019, cooperative members have published joint reports on Solutions to Homelessness and a Back to School series that looks at how to address barriers to academic success for families and students whose primary language is Spanish.

Besides MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette, Collaborative members include Community Voices, Encore Magazine, Kalamazoo Community, Foundation, New/Nueva Opinion, NowKalamazoo, Public Media Network, Southwest Michigan Second Wave, Watershed Voice, WMU School of Communication, WMU Student Media Group, WMUK Public Radio 102.1 FM.

In September 2021, the cooperative received a $100,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to launch a mental health project. SJN is an organization focused on facilitating and encouraging the practice of solutions journalism through rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.

The cooperative was also awarded $27,500 from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation to support the work. The Mental Wellness Project is the first SWMJC project that will provide reporting and participation from all collaborating partners and will examine the limited access to mental health services due to societal stigma, the lack of mental health professionals – especially culturally qualified mental health professionals – and the availability and affordability of high-quality services to bridge the gap in access.

As a solutions journalism effort, reports in the SWMJC’s Mental Wellness Project will provide stories and information that help people understand problems and challenges and that show potential ways to respond. The Mental Health Project will pay special attention to the crisis caused by the social isolation and loneliness associated with COVID-19.

The stories that are part of the project are published by collaborating partners on their media platforms as well as on the SWMJC website

“The ongoing pandemic has increased mental health care needs, while at the same time limiting access,” said Cathy Jennings, managing editor of Second Wave Media in southwest Michigan. “The severity of the current mental health condition has largely been demonstrated in our market.”

In addition, the cooperative hosted three editorial advisory meetings, meeting with community members and mental health care providers who help provide cooperative members with an accurate picture of what works and doesn’t work in relation to mental health access and treatment in our community.

To guide the work and implementation of the funded project, the SWMJC recently welcomed Melinda Clynes as Project Director and Editor. Clynes has worked as a freelance writer and marketing consultant for 30 years.

“I’m really thrilled to take on this role with the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative and Mental Health Project,” said Clynes. “It is a great honor to work with journalists, smart leaders, and participants who are part of the collaboration and meet community members who can share their concerns with us. With these two components in place, we have a great opportunity to elevate the discussion on how to improve access to mental health services to build healthier, happier communities.” “

More on MLive:

Saying these words may help a person contemplating suicide

How to be happier: 13 ways to improve your mental health

12 Tips for Finding Affordable Mental Health Care