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A look into the mental health of Nigerian Journalists [Editor's Comment]

October 5th 2022, 1:23:51 pm

You may find Nigerian Journalists hard to relate with, stern, angry, out of touch with feelings, or emotionally checked out...

A look into the mental health of Nigerian Journalists

A noble profession, often looked down on, but holds the society as a backbone; a call to serve through information, and to check the excesses of the government; one where ethical standards are the crown; the one where corporate and time pressures are the required caffeine for both body and business; Nigerian journalists carry the society on their shoulders at a mental cost.

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Day in and day out, Nigerian Journalists report the complexity of this society, the political chaos, various levels of violence and human suffering; with explicit details, and hardly any good news to balance with. We do this work while also worrying about newsroom layoffs and the future of the industry. It takes a mental and physical toll.

Nigerian Journalists face countless stresses, such as the daily grind to get stories in by set deadline, perfecting the craft, or dealing with sometimes rude, aggressive, even threatening people. Journalists often cover graphic or horrifying events and sometimes feel overworked and overstressed.

It does not make it any better that the news Nigerian Journalists have to cover is the reality of a sinking country that they can only save with their fingers and a keyboard - a far-fetched solution. Cuffed to just our writings (and hope for visibility), we watch the nation collapsing, story by story; often with eyebags and grumbling bellies.

In a recent study, it was revealed how journalists are mentally affected by their jobs. The watchdogs absorb stress related to the emotional hardship of covering disaster victims (i.e. insecurity victims, families).

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They suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), following the details of stories like Hinny Umoren and Bamise Ayanwole. They further lose hope or escape reality by the mental creation of false bliss from covering stories like October 2020 EndSARS protest, and the 2021 Twitter ban.

They become dark jokers, as the circus of political and leadership affairs they report can only be laughed at - cuffed again.

Finally, we worry about our importance and safety in society where our colleagues get harassed or show up corpsed.

The study further revealed other symptoms such as emotional drain, painful flashbacks, anxiety, depression, and guilt. You may find Nigerian Journalists hard to relate with, stern, angry, out of touch with feelings, emotionally checked out, or poor at handling their emotions in domestic and personal relationships. No excuse to cause any form of harm to people or property, but worthy enough to be understood by anyone relating closely with a social watchdog.

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Coping mechanisms often employed include crying, isolation, over-compartmentalisation of mental space, unorthodox addictions, and substance use such as alcohol. But what should be done instead is taking consistent breaks, diversifying the types of stories assigned and having a newsroom coverage plan with well-defined roles and expectations, and strategies that might reduce distress.

Findings from the study indicate the importance of self-care, healthy coping strategies and newsroom-based strategies (such as training and professional development on crisis reporting and encouraging reporters to access mental health resources) to promote the well-being of journalists.

Ima Elijah
Ima Elijah is a Senior News Reporter at Pulse.

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