The Age and Sydney Morning Herald recently released the first episode of a new podcast series called Enough. We were delighted to get it out into the world. It’s a project we have been working on for about seven months along with producer Margaret Gordon. The topic? Youth mental health.
The pandemic really opened up the discussion around mental health. Not only were we reporting on the impact of COVID-19 on young people’s mental health, but we were living it. Many of us at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald personally know children, adolescents, and young adults whose lives were scrambled, with rites of passage stolen by the pandemic. We could see the toll it was taking. COVID was exacerbating a problem that was already on the rise.
Still, while mental health is a crucial topic, we are painfully aware it can sometimes be hard to compel people to read articles about it. There are a few possible reasons for this.
The biggest may be that, by its very nature, it can be a difficult subject to read about. And, in a sea of news that already skews negative, the reality is that sometimes these important stories can get lost.
Another possible factor is that news stories on mental health quite often rely on population-wide research and data, or comments from mental health sector leaders. Regardless of how strong these are, they can sometimes fail to pique interest without the voices of people who are really living it. Not to mention the fact we are in the business of dealing with tight word limits.
We could see there was a gap. We know mental health is a topic young people, in particular, are passionate about. The 2021 Mission Australia Youth Survey found 42% of its 20,000 respondents, ages 15-19, were extremely or very concerned about mental health.
Telling more stories that will engage younger Australians is one of our newsrooms’ big goals this year. And, podcasts are an important medium for this age group: In the United States, roughly half of all podcast listeners are ages 12-34. So, we thought a podcast was the perfect vehicle to invite young people to tell us in their own words what they were going through and what helped them.
The result is this six-part series, with weekly episodes exploring different themes, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders — plus we also have a few bonus episodes in the works.
You meet 18-year-old Alex, who is transgender, and dealt with depression and self-harm.
There’s Daniel, who was on 24/7 suicide watch for months because of panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. He’s unrecognisable now: His stutter no longer bothers him, and he’s a foster parent at 22 years old.
And, you hear from Portia, a young Indigenous woman who explains how intergenerational trauma and racial discrimination have contributed to her suffering from anxiety.
This is a different type of podcast for our newsrooms. Typically, our audio offerings cover news of the day or investigations, whereas we were clear from the beginning that this series would really be led by the lived experiences of young people, with expert advice and news supporting their stories. The episodes get into the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to have mental illness — to experience suicidal thoughts, a panic attack, disordered eating — and how to cope.
We believe that by telling these stories, we can not only engender more compassion and understanding, but also make youth mental health a national priority for this country. This is especially important in a federal election year with an overwhelmed mental health system and months-long waiting lists to see a psychologist.
With Enough, we want young Australians to be heard.