Matthew Nordin, MSW, LSWAIC, MHP
Let’s admit it. There are still some managers in TV news who don’t think “the troops” should feel as entitled to take time off for depression as the flu.
And I’ll admit it. I’ve heard horror stories of, for example, an MMJ having tickets to a concert and when they’re denied getting the night off due to others being on vacation, plaintively pleading with the ND about their need for a mental health day.
We have to treat mental health issues like the serious medical issues they are and stop fooling around.
I’m in a unique position. I’m an award-winning television journalist and a licensed psychotherapist who trained at one of the top programs in the country. I believe journalism is a calling. One doesn’t use a “mental health excuse” to get out of covering the city council because somewhere on the agenda or somewhere in the audience is a story. And a real journalist hungers to find it. They don’t mind staying at the station until 2 a.m. to file an entirely new package for the morning show that has several more details than they had at 11 p.m.
On the other hand, I know a lot of real journalists who answered this call who also suffer from mental health issues. I know newsroom managers who suffer from mental health issues. Or who go home and take care of spouses and children who have mental health issues.
What I can bring to your station is a toolbox. There are no pills in that toolbox. There are no magic fixes. But there are evidence-based coping strategies that someone can use to survive a contentious morning meeting before they have a panic attack. (The other people in the room won’t even know what they’re doing.) Anchors and reporters can even do it while they’re on-air.
RTDNA urges us to have breaking news plans. And I wholeheartedly agree. But we also need trauma plans. From Charleston to Buffalo to Uvalde, journalists are covering massacres that rattle the soul. It’s only a matter of time before your market is added to this list either due to a school shooting, natural disaster, or untimely death of a colleague.
News managers are not likely thinking as clearly and quickly as usual due to the vicarious trauma impacting them as members of the community and as someone who cares about their employees, who are hurting. I can help you put together a checklist ahead of time. On it will be a list of things to do for employees from a mental health perspective as well as what you want to look for in therapists you might bring in-house to offer staff some counseling. For instance, you may want to find someone right now who will agree to offer your staff a modality called “group EMDR” if they’re traumatized because those therapists are hard to find.
In addition to helping your staff, I can also assist you with evidence-based strategies in managing yourself. You don’t want to get burned-out before you reach your full potential.