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Mental Health Supports For Local Journalists Expand Following Suicide Of KUNM News Director

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In the wake of KUNM News Director and reporter Hannah Colton’s suicide last month, two local organizations expanded programs to support the mental health of New Mexico journalists.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line established a support number specifically for medical workers and first responders. Following Colton’s suicide, the office of the Behavioral Health Services Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department asked the crisis line to open the resource to reporters. Program Manager Wendy Linebrink-Allison said the organization approved the request immediately. “Journalists are out there on the front lines also,” she said. “And they’re experiencing vicarious trauma and extreme distress trying to navigate through supporting the community.”

Callers to the line do not need to be in crisis. Linebrink-Allison says journalists can discuss topics like isolation, substance abuse or concerns about the news. “There’s no wrong reason to call,” she added.

The line’s professional counselors can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 855-507-5509.

Additionally, back in March, the New Mexico Local News Fund established a $20,000 grant to support journalists' needs during the pandemic. In response to Colton’s death by suicide, Co-Director Rashad Mahmood says the organization added mental health care to how the funds could be spent. The grant program closed last week after Mahmood says a new push to get the word out was met with a flood of applicants, some seeking mental health support.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the office of the Behavioral Health Services Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department made the request to the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line to expand the support line to journalists, not the office of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department as previously reported. We regret the error.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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