We are proud to announce that 2023 Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health Reporting has been awarded to the creators of “Therapy Ghostbusters,” an NPR Invisibilia podcast about one therapist’s effort to connect with refugee survivors of the Cambodian genocide. The Award is presented annually in partnership with the National Press Foundation.
Stephanie Foo, Neena Pathak, Lee Hale, Ariana Lee, Phoebe Wang, Yowei Shaw and Nic M. Neves contributed to the piece, which describes the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in this immigrant community in San Jose, California. NPF judges awarded the $10,000 prize for a “well-built and evocative audio documentary” they said beautifully told the story of an underreported population with “severe, complex and largely misunderstood” mental health challenges. Judges praised the piece for providing “hope that with a thoughtful, culturally competent approach to treatment, people who are really struggling can get better.”
Foo reported on Bophal Phen’s pioneering “culturally responsive care,” in which he often spent more than a year gaining his clients’ trust to begin processing their past trauma. Part of helping clients process their past was improving their current, day-to-day conditions, as many clients struggled to navigate social welfare systems and endured abuse at home. His method of care also incorporated Cambodian values—for instance, reframing his clients’ understanding of the Buddhist concept of karma.
Foo, a survivor of child abuse and abandonment and author of What My Bones Know, explains how refugees carried their trauma and passed it down to future generations. Judges said Foo discussed the problem in Santa Clara county “with great texture and depth,” listening sensitively to tell “the stories of hope and recovery.”
The National Press Foundation and the Luv u Project established the Carolyn C. Mattingly Award in memory of the Potomac, Maryland, philanthropist and activist after her tragic death in 2014. The award recognizes exemplary journalism that illuminates and advances the understanding of mental health issues and treatments. U.S.-based journalists in news medium are eligible.
The National Press Foundation is grateful for the expertise of this year’s judges, who were moved by the high number of exceptional entrants:
- Michael Ballard, former chair of the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA who also served on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention board for nine years
- 2020 Mattingly winner Dan Boyce, a reporter for Colorado Public Radio
- Natalia Guerrero, a senior journalist and editor at BBC Reel, the BBC’s short documentaries platform
- Laura Trujillo, author of Stepping Back from the Ledge and managing editor at USA Today
- Deborah Wang, contributing editor at KUOW Public Radio and a fellow and advisory board member for the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism
“Therapy Ghostbusters” was an episode of the NPR’s Invisibilia, a podcast known for combining science with narrative storytelling to probe human behavior. NPR recently halted production of Invisibilia due to funding cuts.
Last year, Christina Caron of the New York Times won the award for her coverage of rising suicide rates among Black youth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.