A study conducted by the IBA’s Centre for Excellence in Journalism found that half of the journalists from Karachi were diagnosed with anxiety, according to a press release issued by the CEJ.
At least 45 out of 90 journalists in Karachi who came for counselling between 2018 to 2020 were diagnosed with anxiety at the CEJ Wellbeing Centre.
The study titled ‘Stress and Coping in Journalists: Findings of a three-year counselling service’ was launched on Wednesday in Karachi.
According to the press release, the majority of journalists tended to come for 2 to 7 sessions of the counselling service, while the biggest group was in the 21-30 year age bracket.
The other findings of the study are:
More male journalists sought counselling than women as 50 male and 40 female journos attended the session;
a majority of journalists who attended the session were working in digital or online capacities;
and subeditors, reporters and newsroom managers sought help mostly, but so did anchors.
The counselling service was confidential and one of the challenges of the study was to maintain that especially given how mental health is not a regulated industry in Pakistan.
The study’s author Dr Asha Bedar and CEJ Director Kamal Siddiqi held a Facebook Live session to introduce the work. Dr Bedar recalled how she would take a few sessions with journalist clients to establish trust.
“Some journalists who came were actually very open, and they went back and told people at work,” she recalled, adding this created problems for the journalists because receiving therapy is still taboo.
“We did have a lot of people come in because word of mouth really matters," Dr Asha said.
During the session, Siddiqi asked if Dr Asha felt that journalism as a profession had a higher need for counselling. “It is certainly one of the processions,” she responded, “but anyone exposed to stress, trauma and people’s misery… And a lot of journalism is about that."
The study aimed to explore psychosocial issues that journalists and reporters in Karachi face, with a focus on the industry and work environment; to identify symptoms of emotional and psychological distress and trauma in these journalists and reporters; and to highlight the existing impact of the above-mentioned issues on their work and general well-being.
Dr Asha noted that one key sentiment that echoed through all the focus group discussions and interviews with journalists for the study was that journalism was a passion for them.
All participants agreed that some stress was “part of the job”, and many of them related to passion and exhilaration as motivators.
The study found that anxiety and depression were the most common complaints during the sessions.
As per the study some journalists may have had just one complaint, for example anxiety, and others may have had more than one. Other complaints referred to Bipolar disorder, frustration, OCD, memory loss, mental fatigue, obsessive thoughts, suicidal thoughts, mood swings and emotional control, insomnia, trauma, difficulty in decision-making, panic, lack of motivation, hopelessness etc.
"Journalists' exposure to distressing and disturbing stories affects their mental and emotional well-being to varying degrees. Even when continued exposure causes a certain level of natural desensitisation, some situations “stay” with them, can be overwhelming and difficult for them to talk about," according to the study.
Findings indicate that both depressive and anxiety symptoms are common in journalists and media workers— for example, frequent feelings of sadness, excessive worrying and overthinking, low self-esteem and a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.