Moody College’s Center for Health Communication received a $90,000 grant to conduct research, which will partly contribute to the creation of evidence-based health care curricula.
The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health awarded the Mental Health Communication grant to the center earlier this year, said Emily Bhandari, the foundation’s strategic learning and evaluation program officer.
“We, as a foundation, understand the value and importance of the way we talk about mental health,” Bhandari said. “We really wanted to dig in and get a sense of the best practices regarding mental health communication.”
The grant is also funding the center’s whitepaper on the state of the health communication field and academic literature, center director Michael Mackert said. A whitepaper is a report that discusses a complex issue in a simpler way, he said.
The whitepaper intends to provide directions for the future of research, discuss what is known about best practices and develop ways to train both health care professionals and journalists to talk about mental health, Mackert said.
“The way people talk about any kind of health issue has implications for the experience of the people with that health issue,” Mackert said. “If people are saying things about mental health that contribute to stigma around it, then it can reduce people’s willingness to go seek help.”
Mackert said the grant funded the center’s plans to build mental health communication training curricula for educators.
“(These will be) intended for use by people who are teaching future health care professionals and … journalists in particular about how to talk about mental health more effectively,” Mackert said. “If we all got better about talking about mental health, and we helped reduce that stigma, it could reduce one of the reasons people maybe don’t reach out for help when they need it.”
The center is in the process of reviewing what academic and clinical research says about best practices for mental health communication, Bhandari said. Bhandari said the curricula is expected to be ready for pilot testing in the spring of 2020.
Speech pathology senior Naseem Shafaei said when it comes to mental health, “We don’t talk about it enough.”
“By receiving the grant … I think it’s going to be a huge stepping stone into making the utmost progress within our community … We are the future,” Shafaei said.