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How Journalists Can Maintain Their Mental Health In A High-Stress Profession?

May 29, 2023

7 min read

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Author : United We Care
How Journalists Can Maintain Their Mental Health In A High-Stress Profession?

Introduction

Media is the fourth pillar of democracy and journalists the people who hold this pillar upright. But if you are a journalist, chances are, you already know how difficult the profession can be. The demands of the profession can significantly lower the overall well-being of a person. This article explores mental health issues a journalist commonly faces and we discuss some strategies that you can use to address these issues.

What are the Stressors in the Profession of Journalism?

The job of a journalist is fast-paced and stressful. Some everyday stressors that journalists face are:

Exposure to Traumatic Images and Events 

Journalists often report from the front lines of conflicts, natural disasters, and other critical events like accidents, violence, abuse, and murder. Repeated exposure to traumatic events with little time to process them can lead to distress and vicarious trauma over time [1] [2].

Fast-paced Work Environment

The fast-paced nature of the journalism industry, tight deadlines, and the time pressure to produce compelling stories before others can create a high-stress environment [1].

Risk-Taking Behaviors

Many journalists put themselves in danger to provide unique and critical news for the people [1].

Harassment, Threats, and Heightened Risk to Their Lives

Journalists who report on the environment, politics, or other such sensitive topics are at a significant risk of facing threats to their life, including murder and assault [3]. Women journalists are specifically at risk of sexual harassment and gender discrimination [4].

Lack of Training and Awareness in Managing Mental Health

When people enter into police or medicine they are more prepared to handle the psychological impact of witnessing trauma. Media personnel on the other hand are not prepared and have less access to appropriate interventions [1] [2] [5]. They also lack proper training to deal with this impact which worsens the conditions.

Social Isolation

The nature of journalism, involving irregular schedules and long hours, can lead to social isolation. Since journalists often work alone or in small teams, it limits the opportunities to socialize and increases their risk of loneliness.

Poor Organization Culture

Many media houses have unrealistic demands from journalists. The working hours are long, they barely get time for themselves or their families and organizations do not adequately support or focus on employee well-being. When one combines this with poor pay and low job security the risks of poor mental well-being significantly increase [1].

Stigma Around Mental Health

While many journalists may have a positive attitude towards mental health concerns, there is considerable fear around being perceived as weak for having mental illness [2]. Some studies have shown that journalists fear the trust of employers and colleagues if they disclose they are traumatized [2].

The Impact of a Journalist’s Job on Mental Health 

The stressors mentioned above have a significant impact on the mental health of journalists. Journalists face a range of mental health concerns, such as [1] [2] [5]:

  • PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Stress
  • Burnout
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Low Quality of Life
  • Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

The prevalence of PTSD is high in journalists [1]. Apart from that anxiety and depression are quite common. According to one survey, 70% of journalists reported facing psychological distress due to their job [5].

The constant exposure to traumatic content makes many journalists desensitized and hardened to content or instances of suffering. This reduces the capacity to respond with compassion and empathy to others including those in their family leading to issues like conflicts in relationships and loneliness.

To manage these issues, many journalists resort to coping strategies that are avoidant in nature. Common strategies include dark humor, focusing on technical aspects of work, and substance use [6]. While useful on-field, these can lead to unprocessed emotions and trauma if continued for a long time.

Journalists must recognize and understand the impact of their work. While policy and organization-level changes may be needed to support them, many individual journalists can take action to balance their mental health.

Practical Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health as a Journalist

If you are a journalist and have been experiencing mental health concerns, maybe its time to pause and make some changes. There are a number of things you can do to build good mental health. Some strategies include:

1) Building Adequate Social Support

Since journalists have jobs with the potential to make them feel isolated and they handle sensitive events, it is essential to create safe spaces to talk. Building peer support networks and identifying friends or family you can trust can help you speak to someone when needed [7]. It will reduce isolation and prevent psychological distress.

2) Access Resources Online

Since many journalists work in an environment where support is less and access to mental health resources is not there, many organizations have worked to create free and accessible resources online. Organizations such as Dart Center [8], Carter Center [9], and International Journalist Network [10] have created free mental health resources for journalists.

3) Engage in Self-Care

Self-Care in terms of relaxation activities, scheduling time for play or catharsis, exercise, and small rituals during the day can help in creating some degree of work-life balance. It is vital to have a good sleep routine for effective functioning.

4) Prepare for and Recover from Tough Stories

Some stories are going to be difficult and you know it. Learn to recognize them and have practices of self-compassion before, during, and after these stories. Before the story, think about what will be difficult and discover strategies to navigate that. It is also important to not force yourself to get over it and take time afterward for rest, reflection, and reconnecting with yourself [11]. Reconnecting with your purpose of being a journalist can also help in overcoming distress.

5) Consider Therapy

Especially for journalists facing PTSD, and disorders like depression or anxiety, it can be fruitful to engage in 1:1 work with a therapist. This can help in addressing burnout along with suppressed feelings.

Conclusion

Mental health among journalists is a pressing concern that often goes unnoticed. The demanding nature of their work, exposure to traumatic events, and the constant pressure to deliver accurate news can significantly impact them. Journalists must recognize this impact and work actively toward improving their mental health. Strategies like learning self-care, building a support network, and taking time out for catharsis can help.

If you are a journalist who is struggling with mental health concerns, contact the experts at United We Care. At United We Care, our wellness and mental health experts can guide you with the best methods for well-being.

References

  1. S. Monteiro, A. Marques Pinto, and M. S. Roberto, “Job demands, coping, and impacts of occupational stress among journalists: A systematic review,” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 751–772, 2015. doi:10.1080/1359432x.2015.1114470 
  2. Y. Aoki, E. Malcolm, S. Yamaguchi, G. Thornicroft, and C. Henderson, “Mental illness among journalists: A systematic review,” International Journal of Social Psychiatry, vol. 59, no. 4, pp. 377–390, 2012. doi:10.1177/0020764012437676 
  3. E. Freedman, “In the crosshairs: The perils of environmental journalism,” Journal of Human Rights, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 275–290, 2020. doi:10.1080/14754835.2020.1746180 
  4. S. Jamil, “Suffering in silence: The resilience of pakistan’s female journalists to combat sexual harassment, threats and discrimination,” Journalism Practice, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 150–170, 2020. doi:10.1080/17512786.2020.1725599 
  5. K. Göktaş, “The unspoken truth about journalists’ mental health,” Media Diversity Institute, https://www.media-diversity.org/the-unspoken-truth-about-journalists-mental-health/ (accessed May 25, 2023). 
  6. M. Buchanan and P. Keats, “Coping with traumatic stress in journalism: A critical ethnographic study,” International Journal of Psychology, vol. 46, no. 2, pp. 127–135, 2011. doi:10.1080/00207594.2010.532799 
  7. C. BEDEI, “Tips for coping after reporting distressing and traumatic stories,” International Journalists’ Network, https://ijnet.org/en/resource/tips-coping-after-reporting-distressing-and-traumatic-stories (accessed May 25, 2023). 
  8. B. Shapiro, “Dart center style guide for trauma-informed journalism,” Dart Center, https://dartcenter.org/resources/dart-center-style-guide (accessed May 25, 2023). 
  9. “Resources,” Rosalynn Carter Fellowships, https://mentalhealthjournalism.org/resources/ (accessed May 25, 2023). 
  10. “Mental Health and journalism,” International Journalists’ Network, https://ijnet.org/en/toolkit/mental-health-and-journalism (accessed May 25, 2023). 
  11. N. S. Miller, “Self-care tips for journalists — plus a list of several resources,” The Journalist’s Resource, https://journalistsresource.org/home/self-care-tips-for-journalists-plus-a-list-of-several-resources/ (accessed May 25, 2023).

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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