Why Charity Awards Matter

Why Charity Awards Matter

Our colleague Claire Kafker was at the Mind Media Awards this week. Here is what she had to say…

I was honoured to attend the Mind Media Awards this week, having been selected as one of the shortlisting panel earlier this year. It was a star-studded event – hosted by Freddie Flintoff, presenters and nominees included Jeremy Paxman, Alastair Campbell, Frankie Bridge, Grayson Perry and Professor Green.

It would be easy to have a pop at Mind. ‘Charity wastes donations on flash celeb ceremony (oh, and by the way what DOES their CEO earn?)’ – we know these headlines only too well. But this is why I think Mind is right to hold its awards ceremony every year:

It helps challenge the stigma

We’ve come a long way since the ‘Bonkers Bruno’ headline. Mainstream media is taking mental health far more seriously, and treating its issues far more responsibly. More importantly, public figures are speaking out honestly about their own struggles – and the awards are the perfect platform.

Freddie Flintoff was an excellent choice to host an event where male mental health was a key issue. Freddie is a talented sportsman, so the assumption would be that he is naturally confident. Instead he told of his insecurity at standing in the changing rooms feeling fat compared to his team mates. Of self-medicating with booze. Of trying to change his feelings rather than just sit with them. The Mind Media Awards gave Freddie that safe space to speak out – and although his words were spoken in that room, they will continue to reach far beyond it.

It promotes best practise

The Awards demonstrate not only how mainstream media is working with charities to present mental health struggles in a positive way, but how mental health champions are using media platforms to investigate, expose and educate. The essential criteria attached to the awards ensures that only those nominees who can demonstrate that content is ‘well-crafted and responsibly produced, challenges perceptions of mental health and is safe for intended audiences’ will go through to the final.

For every journalist, film maker, drama producer or blogger that took to the stage last night to accept an award the feeling was clear: that when you are dealing with something as important as mental health you want to ‘get it right’. The Mind Media Awards set a benchmark of best practise and a standard of presenting mental health in a positive way. The Awards are increasingly respected within the industry: as a result we are seeing a real change in how mental health is portrayed on TV and radio, in the press and online.

It encourages collaboration

Bringing people together for a common cause is often how new collaborations start. The Awards is not just about the ceremony, but the potential partnerships that grow from likeminded people being in the same room. In the words of Paul Farmer, Mind CEO, at the close of the ceremony: ‘This room is full of brilliant people. Go out and network.’

Networking is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about upcoming projects that may not yet be on your radar. For me, it was a chance to hear more about Mind’s plans for the future – including the Heads Together campaign which has brought together eight of the UK’s mental health charities. Finding ways to join up services was one of the topics up for discussion: it has been widely documented that the sector needs to change, and the Awards was an opportunity to meet people that can help us move forward together rather than work in silos.

It’s about people

The Awards was about celebrating real people. It was about people whose stories had been told through newspapers and TV shows. It was about real people talking about their own struggles with mental health. Eve Canavan, whose experience of post-partum psychosis was used as a basis for Stacey’s storyline on Eastenders, received the Speaking Out award for her inspirational contribution to the programme. I’ve known Eve through Twitter for some years: she encouraged me to speak out about my own experience of postnatal depression along with Rosey Adams, founder of #PNDchat who also took this year’s Blogger award. Rosey said that the day Stacey’s storyline was aired, her blog had 12,000 hits from people looking for information.

Reaching beyond the event

This year, the ceremony was streamed live on Facebook thanks to a sponsorship from Virgin Money Giving. Whilst the partnership attracted negative comments on social media, with some questioning the involvement of Virgin, the live stream enabled thousands more people to hear the shared stories of mental ill health and recovery and see the real people behind the news, the drama, the blogs and the soaps. One viewer commented on Facebook: ‘So proud of my two little boys watching curiously ….. education is key here’ – in particular since male mental health and postnatal depression were the key themes of this year’s awards. One in ten children in 2016 has a mental health problem. The media has a vital role in educating children and families about mental health issues. The Mind Media Awards makes sure that benchmark stays high.

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