When Newsweek came calling ...

  • Huge achievement: an article on mindfulness by Lakshmi Magon appeared in the April 7 issue of Newsweek Japan (Photograph supplied)

    Huge achievement: an article on mindfulness by Lakshmi Magon appeared in the April 7 issue of Newsweek Japan (Photograph supplied)

Lakshmi Magon never expected her article would grab the attention that it did.

A piece on “mindfulness in the community”, it was part of work she did while enrolled in the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana Fellowship in Global Journalism.

Newsweek Japan came calling in March, a month after the article ran in The Conversation Canada, part of a “network of not-for-profit media outlets that publish news stories written by academics and researchers”.

“There was a large practical aspect [to the fellowship], which was that we would write and publish as many freelance articles as we could to get as much experience as was possible,” said Ms Magon, whose interest as a journalist lies largely in the science communications field.

“I had written and had published, by a Canadian outlet, a story on mindfulness in the community. These are scientific concepts, but how are they actually benefiting the community as opposed to the most privileged of us? I had written that, that was published and I was contacted by Newsweek in Japan. They asked to republish it and I, of course, said yes.”

The article ran in the weekly magazine on April 7 as part of a special feature, World Economy After the Corona Crisis.

The 24-year-old started her research interested in discovering which community health methods would be “the easiest and most budget-conscious to implement”.

She said: “I’d heard so much about mindfulness being very, very useful for reducing anxiety and depression and other mental health issues for the wider population.

“I’d read a lot of scientific papers about it but when I looked at the community I didn’t really see those people who had the worst instances of these problems — anxiety, depression and other difficulties — benefiting from it.”

She started calling community organisations in the Canadian metropolis that had implemented mindfulness as a tool and found that, “generally, it had gone really well”.

Ms Magon said: “It was also something that was extremely cost-effective, because they were doing mindfulness in groups.

“They were helping out groups at a time and they were really getting people from those affected communities to work by themselves and work on their mental health. It happened in Toronto, a big city, but I can totally see something like that happening in Bermuda or happening around the world.”

She is thrilled with the feedback she’s since had, with many organisations appreciative of knowing how mindfulness has successfully been used elsewhere.

“I think people have found it to be quite reassuring to know here’s a method that is improving anxiety, improving depression for people who, in a lot of situations, have sort of been left behind by their governmental systems.

“It’s wonderful to know that you can train people anywhere. You don’t need a huge amount of resources or a huge amount of education, and you’re helping people. I think shedding a light on that has led to a lot of people kind of reaching out and being, ‘OK, that’s very interesting. Thank you for letting me know about this because I didn’t know what was going on’.”

Science has long held interest for Ms Magon, who attended Saltus Grammar School before she left for Britain at age 6. She then drifted “between the two” countries until 18 when she entered the University of Edinburgh.

“When I left Bermuda to do my schooling in the UK, I was really seeing around me that science just seemed like a very, very important tool for the community. It just seemed like the more you knew about science, the more you knew about data, the more you could positively impact your community.

That was what led me to do an undergraduate degree in biotechnology. I really wanted to be in a situation where, if I was trying to talk about something or dispense information in the community, I knew what I was talking about made sense and I knew it had data behind it.”

Ms Magon is interning at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Bermuda Living Reefs Foundation, having graduated from the University of Toronto via Zoom, in May.

“I think science can sometimes be a tool that many people don’t know about, many people don’t have the opportunity to learn. And so for me, having the opportunity to learn and then bring it back into focus in the community was very important.

“[After graduating] I was interested in coming back to Bermuda where all of my family were and which is the most important place in the world for me. And in terms of what’s next, I’m really interested in seeing any opportunities.

“I think right now with Covid-19 and the recession that’s happened after, it’s not the easiest place to get a job or to establish your career but I’ve been working at Bios doing science communication and science journalism materials for them.

“I’ve also been working with the Living Reef Foundation. These are two places where I believe I can use my science acumen and my journalism knowledge to push for effect to the public.”

Read Lakshmi Magon’s article in The Conversation Canada here: bit.ly/2Digl0G

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Published Sep 2, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 2, 2020 at 7:59 am)

When Newsweek came calling ...

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