Friday, July 24, 2020

Survey details the heavy toll of covering the pandemic on many journalists' mental health

A small but in-depth survey highlights the emotional toll covering the pandemic has had on journalists all over the world, Meera Selva and Anthony Feinstein report for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

The study was led by Selva, director of the Journalist Fellowship Programme at the Reuters Institute, and Feinstein, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto, along with a team of researchers. Feinstein has done similar work on how journalists have been affected by covering other extreme events such as the 9/11 terror attacks and organized crime in Mexico. They sampled 73 experienced journalists at large news organizations, almost all of whom considered themselves to be in good physical health.

"The majority of our respondents, around 70 percent, suffer from some levels of psychological distress and responses suggest that 26 percent have clinically significant anxiety compatible with the diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder which includes symptoms of worry, feeling on edge, insomnia, poor concentration and fatigue," Selva and Feinstein report. "Around 11 percent of respondents report prominent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which include recurrent intrusive thoughts and memories of a traumatic covid-19-related event, a desire to avoid recollections of the event, and feelings of guilt, fear, anger, horror and shame."

Though the sample is small and the results preliminary, "the top-line findings are so striking that we feel it is important to flag up the pressure many journalists are working under so that news media and others can consider how to respond to the problems we identify," Selva and Feinstein report.

They note that the emotional toll could be much worse for journalists who are less experienced, in worse physical health, and working for "less privileged" news organizations (such as rural papers). Read more here.

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