Wednesday April 24, 2024

Journalists and trauma

By Editorial Board
September 24, 2021

A study conducted by the Centre of Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at Karachi’s IBA has found that at least 50 percent of journalists working in Karachi suffer stress, anxiety, depression or other forms of mental ill health. The study, the findings of which were released on Wednesday, notes that the majority of journalists who came in to seek help offered at the centre’s free counselling service were aged between 21 and 30 and a lot of them had been at work for periods between one and seven years. The majority were male. The four clinical psychologists who provided over 600 hours of counselling to 107 journalists note that a key reason for the depression and anxiety suffered by the journalists is the fact that they often deal with sad or disturbing stories, while the presence of social media means they can never quite get away from work, and the pressures this brings with it. It is quite likely that there are many other journalists across the country who suffer similar challenges.

The study provides a glimpse of the very real impact of the many challenges journalists face in the country – challenges that transcend the ‘professional’ and move into the personal realm of an individual’s mental wellbeing. As a profession that is in any case high stress, journalism in Pakistan has also been dealing with its own unique set of problems over the past few years: increasing job insecurity, the Covid-19 pandemic, censorship, on-job risks, and the nature of the work itself – which requires dealing with traumatic stories, combative subjects and the ever-present awareness that speaking truth to power usually comes at a cost.

In this the CEJ study is a good example of how journalists are affected by the kind of material they need to deal with, the risks they take, as well as apathetic workplace cultures. This is also a red flag to workplaces to take better care of their staff. Journalists need advice and help on how to deal with the stress they face constantly as a result of their job. This becomes even more difficult in a society that still sees mental health as a taboo subject. It is because of this that the study is significant, and will hopefully raise awareness regarding the importance of mental well being for all media professionals.