Resources for Reporting on the Economy and Mental Health

The past four years have been a time of economic crisis. Individuals, families and communities have suffered the effects of high unemployment, increasing numbers of homeless families, foreclosures, shrinking wages, loss of health benefits, strained marriages, reduced social services and changing spending and saving habits.
These effects are wide-ranging and will likely continue for years to come. Community journalists have an opportunity and a responsibility to chronicle the mental health impact of our distressed economy. What are the mental stresses induced by the economic crisis and its effects? How do resulting mental health troubles breed and spread, creating community stress? How do these problems escalate to suicide? When does private agony become a public story?
This page provides resources to help journalists answer these and many more critically important questions. These resources are provided as part of a Specialized Reporting Institute (SRI), “The Economy and Mental Health,” co-hosted by Local Media Association and the Associated Press Media Editors on July 16‒17, 2012. The SRI was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Find an Expert

Tom Contiliano, chief of client relations, Bloomberg News, expert on economic reporting and forensic accounting, 202-654-1271,

Marian Frattarola-Saulino, CEO, Values Into Action (VIA), a leader in the disabilities field supporting civil and human rights, promoting inclusion in schools and communities and building sustainable support systems that include people, families and allies, 610-565-5177,

Terrence Koller, executive director, Illinois Psychological Association (IPA), a clinical psychologist who worked in a state hospital and maintains a private practice, he is an expert on stress and mental health, 312-372-7610,

Steve Moore, partner, law firm of Rowland & Moore LLP, after Steve’s son died by suicide, Steve volunteered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and became a director and officer of the Illinois chapter; Steve is also a facilitator for survivor support groups for Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, 312-803-1000,

Jack Doppelt, professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, noted author and expert in media law and ethics, 847-491-3955,

Jeremy Gilbert, assistant professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, expertise includes media product design, digital innovation, social media and mobile journalism, 847-467-0874,

Thomas Koetting, deputy managing editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has earned a reputation as a craftsman with copy, a mentor to young journalists and a thoughtful newsroom leader, 414-224-2318,

Alex Richards, specialist reporter, Chicago Tribune, a member of the investigative team, Alex is the computer-assisted reporting and database specialist, 800-874-2863,

Twitter Tags to Watch

@psychcentral: PsychCentral has provided psychology and mental health information and support since 1995

@namimass: National Alliance on Mental Health of Massachusetts provides mental health education, support and advocacy

@mhsmchat: Weekly mental health/social media chat on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern Time

@nationalcouncil: The National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, advocating for access to comprehensive behavioral health care services for all

Useful Twitter Hashtags







Blogs to Follow

Everyone Needs Therapy: Contemporary musings by therapydoc, a Chicago-based doctor specializing in clinical social work and social science research

Kellevision: Kellen Von Houser, a licensed therapist, professional counselor and certified life coach, blogs about mental health

Mad World: Andy McNicoll highlights the latest research, policy and debate about all things related to mental health

Mystery Shrink: Barbara Deschong, a self-described psychologist on the loose

Psych Central: Blogs highlighting a range of topics and concerns in mental health and psychology

Shrink Rap: Dinah Miller and friends blog about a wide range of mental health topics

We’re Only Human: Wray Herbert's fresh and insightful take on psychological science

Key Resources

Reporting on Suicide

Reporting on Suicide: Principles for reporters writing about suicide

Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals: Document published by the World Health Organization

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide: Developed by several mental health, academic, and suicide prevention organizations

Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide: Best practices for media coverage of suicide developed by experts in suicide prevention

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Organization active in suicide prevention

Research and Reports

American Psychological Association Stress in America survey

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Getting Through Tough Economic Times guide covers possible risks, warning signs, managing stress and more

National Alliance on Mental Illness report: Grading the States: State by state report on mental health care system from 2009

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General: Download this free report on scientific research along the continuum of mental health and mental illness that addresses treatment, administration and policy, costs, consumers, privacy and confidentiality, ethics and values, and future visions


Bureau of Labor Statistics employment and wage trends

Bureau of Economic Analysis regional and metro gross domestic products (GDPs) by state, region or industry

U.S. Census Bureau business patterns by state, county or metropolitan area

Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) detailed population samples

Bankruptcy filings

Use of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

Weekly unemployment claims

Home starts

National Institute of Mental Health reports on prevalence of mental illness by type and age group

Department of Health and Human Services statistics on inpatient stays

Department of Health and Human Services statistics on mental health hospitalizations

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration utilization and penetration rates of mental health services by state

National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting: Resources for investigative journalists; learn about data, how to find it and how to use it

Resources from the SRI

Community Response to Stress: People Have the Power: SRI presentation by Marian Frattarola-Saulino, executive director of Values into Action

Dealing with Data: SRI Presentation by Alex Richards of the Chicago Tribune

Managing Yourself and Your Newsroom: Tips from Tom Koetting of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Reporting Suicide in Times of Economic Strain: SRI presentation by Steve Moore of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The Economy: How It Impacts Our Mental Health: SRI presentation by Terrence Koller, executive director of the Illinois Psychological Association

The Economy and Mental Health: Specialized Reporting Institute Action Plans: A compilation of action plans developed by participants in the SRI



Covering Mental Health Issues and the Recession: Watch this Webinar replay to learn to identify untold stories about stress, suicide and other mental health issues related to today's economy. Presented by Nancy Molitor, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral science at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Covering Communities in a Time of Change: Reporting With Patchwork Nation: Webinar replay that teaches you to use Patchwork Nation, an online project that brings data and community-contributed content together. It will help you and your news organization understand the dramatic economic, political and cultural changes in the U.S.

Covering the Budget Crisis in Your City or State: Webinar replay that teaches you to read and analyze a budget, how to dissect a union contract and how to generate stories that will stand out as governments attempt to provide services while trimming budgets and coping with reduced revenues

The Economy in Turmoil: Challenges to the White House, the Statehouse and Your House: Webinar replay that addresses coverage of the volatile, complex and confusing economic recession story

Seminar Snapshot

Census Coverage: Going Deep with Demographic and Economic Data: How to access the wide range of demographic, economic and other available census data to tell powerful stories about your community

Self-Directed Course

Journalism and Trauma: Learn how traumatic stress affects victims and how to interview trauma victims with compassion and respect