“I can’t think of any other local station that would put this many resources toward the importance of mental health. I am beyond grateful.”
– WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Mikaya Thurmond
WRAL-TV focused on mental health coverage during an entire week in April, putting a spotlight on mental health issues and the importance of resources. A WRAL Documentary relating to the topic premiered on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, with a first-time phone bank dedicated to connecting viewers to mental health professionals on the following afternoon and evening.
“A couple things happened at the same time to make this a weeklong focus for WRAL,” explained WRAL-TV Enterprise Executive Producer Ashley Talley. “First, our (awesome!) new documentary producer Cristin Severance knew she wanted her second documentary to be about the impact COVID had on young people’s mental health. She and Jay Jennings got incredible stories from teens and tweens sharing exactly how tough the pandemic was for them, and the diverse voices created a real big picture look at the issue in their documentary, Pandemic Generation: Kids in Crisis.”
Close to the same time they had settled on the topic, Talley told Capcom, a local social worker named Ravita Omabu Okafor reached out to all of the anchors and some of the reporters at WRAL with a pitch to do a mental health helpline.
“…it was a breath of fresh air, and we were so excited about her idea!” said Talley.
Since Talley has organized WRAL’s previous vaccine information hotlines where the station has connected doctors directly with people who had questions about COVID and the vaccine, she had the experience to properly plan what became Mental Health Pros. That phone bank would connect licensed mental health professionals directly with hundreds of people seeking access to resources.
“Through everyone’s efforts we connected more than 50 licensed medical professionals directly to more than 650 people with last night, and the feedback was incredibly positive,” Talley told staff the morning after the phone bank.
One Mental Health Pros participant told her, “”It was both fun to do and a service to the community. WRAL has a long history of doing its part to elevate the conversation around mental health and emotional well-being. Congrats.”
The professional on the phone bank said callers were very appreciate of the help.
“Our awesome anchor Mikaya Thurmond was passionate about the project too and joined in the organization of the event, along with the week of coverage we planned around it,” explained Talley. “She hosted On the Record focusing on mental health issues in NC and produced two stories that aired in the days leading up to the phone bank. Cristin and Jay’s documentary aired the day before the phone bank, and on the day of, Mikaya and Cristin were live in newscasts promoting the event for over 12 hours!”
Thurmond is appreciative of the opportunity to put a spotlight on the crucial topic.
“I can’t think of any other local station that would put this many resources toward the importance of mental health. I am beyond grateful,” she said.
“It was a great success, and I’m thankful that WRAL and our management recognize the importance of this topic and support our efforts to directly engage and help the community,” she said.
In case you missed it, the documentary and On the Record are available to watch here: