Journalists Prone To Vicarious Trauma, Says Doctor At NIMHANS - Eastern Mirror
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Journalists prone to vicarious trauma, says doctor at NIMHANS

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: Mar 12, 2022 11:05 pm

Our Reporter

Dimapur, March 12 (EMN): Journalists are prone to experience vicarious trauma due to prolonged exposure to violent, and horrific and disturbing content, according to Dr. Debanjan Banerjee, MD, DM, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) Bangalore.

Vicarious trauma is a profound change altered by empathetic bonding with a client or content, and is experienced by journalists as “others’ trauma becomes ours”, asserted Banerjee.

He was addressing a mental wellbeing workshop (virtual) for journalists, media educators and fact checkers on Saturday organized by Google News Initiative in collaboration with Data Leads.

He said such trauma occurs due to exposure to graphic and traumatising material, human cruelty, re-enactment of the trauma, and empathic engagement. 

Banerjee stated that vicarious trauma is a result of acute and repetitive exposure to gross content, making one go through chronic trauma; work pressure with emotional burden, which is a dual stress; enhanced involvement with situations and victims leading to over estimated sense of responsibility; moral trauma and trauma compounded by grief.

It changes an individual both for the better and worse, and also changes the perception gradually, affecting thinking, he said.

In vicarious trauma, a person connects with the victim emotionally; this may lead to emotional disturbances which may be sadness, irritability, mood swings, grief; nightmares and frequent arousals; bodily pain symptoms; social withdrawal and cynicism; intrusive imagery; sexual difficulties and problems in security, trust, esteem and control. 

According to the doctor, the contributing factors are the extent, duration and intensity of exposure to war, violence, ethnic conflicts, personal experience of aggression or moral injury, time spent in the field, organisational stress, personal styles of coping, beliefs, ideals, empathy and ethics, history of mental health issues or adverse childhood experiences.

One can be protected from this trauma through the ability to control emotional reactions, ability to endure with a strong sense of meaning and purpose, management support, peer supervision and avoiding toxic positivity.

The generic steps, he said, was through identifying, understanding, acceptance, sharing, resolving and relapse prevention.

Compassion fatigue, he said, is often neglected and one can only show compassion to a certain limit as it drains out a person, while social support is extremely important and what matters is how much one is able to open up.

According to him, the workplace essentials are eliminating stigma, periodic sensitisation, regulated digital usage, identifying at risk, interpersonal regulation, mutual experience integration and through positive effect enhancement.

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: Mar 12, 2022 11:05:12 pm
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