The staff of Everymind are saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Emeritus Richard Warwick Blood. Warwick was a true scholar, a leader in journalism and communication, and someone who was generous with his time and knowledge.
In the early 2000s, as Professor and Head of School of Professional Communication at the University of Canberra, Warwick was commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Health to provide a baseline picture of how the Australian media reported on suicide and mental illness. He joined forces with Professor Jane Pirkis from the University of Melbourne, and they looked at these issues from a variety of angles. This Media Monitoring project found that although there were many examples of excellent reporting, there were also areas for improvement. For instance, suicides were often reported in a way that might influence others to take the same course of action, and information on sources of help was generally missing. Similarly, there was a tendency for mental illness to be reported in ways that promoted fear and fostered stigma and discrimination.
As an ex-journalist himself, Warwick was driven to change this. He worked closely with staff at Everymind and other media professionals and academics to craft guidelines on safe and respectful media reporting of suicide and mental illness. These guidelines now form part of the Mindframe initiative that is so familiar to journalists and journalism students across the country. We know from subsequent studies, including a follow-up Media Monitoring project, that media reporting of suicide and mental illness has improved considerably over time, and Australia is regarded as an international leader in this area. Much of the credit for this goes to Warwick and others in the media and the health sector who helped shape the approach.
Warwick will be remembered fondly by all who knew him. He was a quiet achiever and passionate about what he did, and he had a wry sense of humour. Professor Jane Pirkis said of him:
“Warwick and I didn’t know each other when we started working together, but we quickly became firm friends. He was brilliant, dedicated, warm, respectful and funny and I will miss him terribly. I learnt so much from him.”
Director of Everymind, Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM talked of his honesty and generosity, particularly in her early years working on Mindframe:
“I remember meeting with Warwick in his office at Canberra University on a number of occasions, talking for hours about journalism and media-led research methods, which were new to me as a psychologist. Even more than his direct contribution to Mindframe, I know that he inspired other students to further this research exploring media portrayals of suicide and mental illness, and the sector has been better for it.”
Warwick leaves a lasting legacy across sectors. He has made the world a better place for people who are with direct experience of suicidal distress or living with mental illness. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.