SELF-CARE TIPS FOR JOURNALISTS

Journalists are front-line workers, yet rarely do we get the opportunity to debrief following coverage of a traumatic story. Covering a suicide story can be challenging for the most seasoned of journalists. Self-care must be a priority. Here, we share self-care tips for media professionals reporting on suicide and mental illness from the DART Centre, Asia Pacific and Mindframe.

  • Before covering a story on suicide and mental illness, especially where violence is involved, talk to your editor or manager to discuss the possible emotional, physical and logistical risks you might encounter
  • It’s important to remember that you more than likely will not experience long-term ill effects when you cover a traumatic event
  • Know that ethical reporting of suicide and mental illness is valuable and important work.
  • A small amount of distress following exposure to trauma is a common response and is not a weakness.
  • While some stories might have a longer lasting impact, for example a murder suicide, these feelings should dissipate over time.
  • If you are feeling distressed, talk to someone you trust. It is not weak, unprofessional or career-threatening to do this.
  • Media professionals who acknowledge and discuss their feelings often discover that it informs their work and helps them process trauma.
  • Part of staying healthy and remaining focused on the job is remembering to take good care of yourself by eating well, drinking water, sleeping regularly, taking breaks and exercising.
  • Reporting suicide can be distressing for media professionals, especially if they have been affected by suicide in the past.
  • Journalists may report from sites where there is graphic evidence of a death. You might see and be affected by other people’s distress, or you may be required to interview people who are bereaved or in shock.
  • It’s important that you safeguard your wellbeing in these situations. Consider alerting a manager if you believe you will be adversely affected by covering a story.
  • Normal reactions can include “upsetting dreams or sleeplessness, recurring reminders of the event, being easily startled, sweating, rapid heartbeat, dizziness or nausea”
  • The usually pass after some days or weeks. If they last longer than 3-4 weeks, or you feel overwhelmed, you should see professional help.
  • You should also know that symptoms of depression have a strong influence on the development of post-traumatic stress disorder in journalists exposed to potential traumatic events.
  • A peer in the newsroom
  • Peer support programme within your media organisation
  • Employee Assistance Programme
  • Private psychotherapy
  • The Mind Field
  • Dart Centre

SELF-CARE TIPS FOR EDITORS & MANAGERS

Having awareness of the physical and emotional risks of exposure to trauma (such as suicide) will instil the confidence in staff to cover the ‘tough’ jobs, which can lead to getting better stories and enhancing staff resilience. Here, we share self-care tips for Editors and Managers from the DART Centre, Asia Pacific and Mindframe.

  • Trauma awareness briefings should be a core element of standard training for staff and management.
  • Editors should talk to their staff about the potential emotional risks of any job, along with the physical and logistical risks.
  • You should ensure that your media professionals have a direct line to the newsroom and the ability to call home
  • Maintain regular contact with your journalist(s) covering a suicide or mental illness story.
  • As people’s sensitivities are heightened when exposed to trauma, managers should provide encouragement and minimise criticism.
  • If staff feel distressed, managers should encourage them to discuss this with some they trust and remind them it is not weak, unprofessional or career-threatening to do so.
  • Explain to staff that distress is a normal response.
  • While some stories may have a longer lasting impact, eg. a public suicide, these feelings should dissipate over time.
  • You should know that there are a range of mental and physical responses to witnessing a trauma such as suicide. These can include: sleeplessness, upsetting dreams, recurring reminders of the event.
  • These reactions are normal and usually pass after some days or weeks.
  • If they continue for longer than 3-4 weeks, or a staff member feels overwhelmed, they should seek professional help.
  • Be aware that symptoms of depression have a strong influence on the development of post-traumatic stress disorder in journalists exposed to potentially traumatic events.
  • Managers should meet with all staff members who have covered a suicide story to discuss both the logistics and any emotions the may be feeling.
  • Managers should be aware that reporting suicide can be distressing for media professionals who have been affected by suicide in the past.
  • Managers should be aware that media professionals may be affected by other people’s distress as a result of interviews or engaging with those who are bereaved or in shock.
  • If staff report or show any sign of on-going distress, managers should offer support and urge them to seek professional help.
  • It is not a line manager’s role to be a professional counsellor, but they can be a role model around leadership and support.