Mental Health Communication

In 2019, the Hogg Foundation entered a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin Center for Health Communication (CHC) to answer the question, “What are the best ways to train healthcare professionals and journalists about mental health and mental illness communication… and why should we care?”

The project coincides with the CHC’s two-year mental health theme designed to foster new interdisciplinary projects across UT‐Austin and with community partners to advance research, education, and practice at the intersection of mental health and health communication.

The grant supports:

  • Development of White Paper. The CHC will synthesize academic literature on mental health and health communication with a focus on journalists and healthcare providers. This would be an opportunity to summarize the current state of the field, highlight implications for practitioners, and propose a research agenda to advance the field. CHC and the Hogg Foundation will cooperate in publicizing and disseminating findings.
  • Creation of Educational Materials to Improve Workforce Curriculum: The CHC hopes to develop evidence‐based educational tools to improve how health professionals and journalists are trained to communicate about mental health and mental illness. These tools could include reading lists and exercises for use in undergraduate and graduate courses and training modules that could be integrated into existing classes in health professional schools, among other possibilities. CHC will work with the foundation to identify gaps in current training practices, identify opportunities to address these gaps, and include consumer voice in curriculum development.

Current Grantees

Center for Health Communication

The Center for Health Communication was established in 2014 to advance health communications scholarship and improve health through evidence-based communication research. CHC brings together researchers and experts from diverse areas of health communication for multidisciplinary research, collaboration, and innovation. CHC has more than 40 affiliated faculty and graduate students from across the university. In April 2017, the CHC became a joint academic center of both the Moody College of Communication and Dell Medical School.

Research scholars working on this project include:

  • Mike Mackert, director. Michael Mackert, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Health Communication and professor in the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations and the Department of Population Health. His research focuses on strategies to increase health literacy through traditional and digital new media. He has led projects on a variety of public health issues including tobacco cessation, opioid overdose prevention, and men’s role in prenatal health.
  • Heather Voorhees, postdoctoral fellow. Heather Voorhees, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Health Communication. Her research interests include health communication, health disparities, chronic illness, identity, and social support-and support-seeking. She earned an M.A. in strategic communications from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a Ph.D. in communication studies with a specialization in interpersonal health communication from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Health communication is the science and art of using communication to advance the health and well-being of people and populations. As a public health issue, mental health encompasses a broad continuum of behaviors and practices across which communication is integral, including mental health promotion for all, stigma reduction, mental and physical health care integration, and public policy. Despite this, there remains a gap between current research in mental health communication and the day-to-day practices of both health care practitioners and communications professionals. In addressing this gap, the Mental Health Communication initiative will enhance our understanding of an issue that has deep implications for public health and health behavior.

Questions: Contact Emily Bhandari, Strategic Learning and Evaluation Program Officer