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In November, NFCB member station KUNM’s 29-year-old news director committed suicide. The incident brought attention to a subject few of us dwell on in pandemic-affected communities: the well-being of those behind the microphone. Today, more stations and media leaders are asking how we are supporting our people and organizations through mental health difficulties.
The demand for conversations on wellness is tremendous, and represents an opportunity for radio to engage communities and make a difference in people’s lives. Meditation and wellness podcasts are on the rise, according to February data collected by Spotify. Company representatives say there is a 250 percent increase in people listening to meditation podcasts, and a 160 percent increase in people listening to wellness podcasts. 
One of the focus areas for NFCB’s summer event Wish You Were Here is wellness. As COVID-19 isolation drags on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is among the most high-profile leading organizations to talk about stress and mental health. A bleak news cycle and the disintegration of our personal social networks is straining many people. For community-based media organizations, talking about these issues and attending to staff and volunteers with sensitivity may be a matter of life and death.

How can we more address wellness in community media?

  • In times of trauma and stress, advises Poynter leader (and NFCB ally) Samantha Ragland, setting realistic expectations and getting rest are key. “You may be noticing headaches, constant fatigue, excessive fear or catastrophizing, forgetfulness, clinginess or loss of purpose — all impacts of trauma. And they’re likely compounded by the invisible labor you cannot escape because you are as much a part of the story as you are the storyteller or story distributor. Please don’t dismiss what your body, mind and emotions are telling you.”
  • If you’re online a lot, you’re familiar with (and probably felt a bit of) FOMO — fear of missing out. Anne-Laure Le Cunff says it’s time to celebrate JOMO — the joy of missing out — by doing less and reflecting more as a means of keeping in mind what is most important to us.
  • As we consider the news, how can you help your audience’s stress level? Offering meditation on the air is just one idea of media makers looking to create grounding for listeners. “What’s different about these moments… is that this break from the news cycle comes in the middle. It’s a built-in pause that allows a consumer to decide whether or not they’d like to keep taking in information.”
  • And finally, a little background: the BBC’s Claudia Hammond traces the idea of ‘wellness’ back to the counterculture of California in the 1960s. Here’s the hour-long audio documentary.

We encourage you to follow this issue at NFCB’s website.