The APS National Office has a dedicated media team whose role it is to support the advocacy efforts of the National Office in promoting psychology and its contribution to the health and wellbeing of the Australian community. This article presents highlights of APS media coverage for April and May 2011 and kicks off a new regular InPsych update reporting on the media exposure for psychology. An updated ‘APS in the News’ section will soon be available on the website and will include links to coverage online.
Unfortunately, it has been a disaster-prone start to the year and there has been a great thirst for information from psychologists about how communities can prepare for, and recover from, disaster. The APS has prepared information for media outlets and, through its expert Disaster Reference Group and National Office staff, contributed to many articles on the topic, including articles that have been syndicated widely internationally. Dr Susie Burke, who is involved with disaster response at the National Office, contributed to an Associated Press article – 'Disaster puts stress on children in Japan' – which was syndicated globally to over 176 outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Japan Times. Susie also contributed comments for a story, 'After Shocks', in the well-read Sunday Life supplement of the Sunday Age (Melbourne) that is also syndicated in the Sun-Herald, (Sydney).
Parenting and child-focused sites and publications, including kidspot.com.au, Practical Parenting and Body & Soul (Sunday Herald Sun), were keen to work with APS expert members and researchers to develop stories on psychology’s role in autism for Autism Awareness Month in April.
Indigenous mental health and the role of psychology in facilitating better outcomes were highlighted by a campaign introducing the incoming chairperson of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA), Glenn Williams, who was able to talk to Australian Doctor and the Daily Telegraph (Sydney) about his career and his pursuit of equity in mental health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Rural communities are still doing it tough and the APS has received requests for support from a number of regional areas as well as requests for comment in rural media. ABC Radio Riverland (South Australia) has responded to the depth of need for expert psychological assistance by creating a regular psychology segment on the Morning show which was filled by a local APS member.
The APS has continued to advocate for the community on issues surrounding young people and mental health, and has been vocal about the limitations and potential dangers of the contentious school chaplains program, funded by the Government, under which chaplains are becoming involved in assisting students with emotional and psychological issues. The Age reported on the most recent APS submission to a Government Inquiry on the program and David Stokes, Senior Manager, Professional Practice, was interviewed on SBS radio about the issues. APS advocacy on the issue was brought to the attention of the well-respected program, 7.30, on ABC TV, which has also filmed a segment.
In the lead-up to the Federal Budget, concerted media efforts promoted the highly favourable evaluation of the Better Access initiative and the APS called for the maintenance of current funding. The story was picked up by the national press agency AAP resulting in a more balanced reporting of the evaluation. In addition, Executive Director Lyn Littlefield hit the radio waves to explain the evaluation results to the community, talking to ABC radio outlets across Australia, from Perth to Bundaberg.
Post-Budget, the APS publicly defended the rights of consumers over cuts to the Better Access initiative. Executive Director Lyn Littlefield was quoted in a range of media including The Australian, and her comments were syndicated online and across Australia in publications from the Kalgoorlie Miner in the West to the Central Coast Express-Advocate on the east coast. The influential health journalist Melissa Sweet requested a link to the APS release to include it on her health blog Croakey.
In May, the APS celebrated hitting the 20,000th member mark and used this as an opportunity to promote stories around the growth of psychology, putting the spotlight on a number of APS Fellows. The Weekend Professional section of the Weekend Australian will feature an article on psychology, while Radio 6PR Perth and Radio 2UE Sydney were among the outlets that featured interviews with prominent local APS members.
In another major coup, Dr Rebecca Mathews, Manager, Practice Standards in the National Office, represented the APS on the prestigious 7.30 program on ABC TV, talking about the APS guidelines on the use of restraint for people with intellectual disabilities. She presented the evidence-based case for psychologically-informed behavioural approaches to working with people with intellectual disability and highlighted the need for funding for training in the sector. Other outlets, including the Australian Herald online and Yahoo News online, also picked up the story, increasing its reach across the community. The Kenya Star also picked up the story in its run of international health news.
In addition, numerous APS submissions, position papers and tip sheets on issues from the sexualisation of children to climate change were cited in publications reaching diverse sections of the community, including the Weekend Australian, The Land, Farm Weekly, Weekend West and the Illawarra Mercury.
The flow-on effects of this media coverage are numerous: it frequently generates calls and inquiries from government departments and agencies, interested organisations and members of the public; it drives people to the APS website and to the Find-a-Psychologist service; and it assists people to find the right psychological solutions or assistance for the problems facing them or their communities.