Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress that develops after a terrifying ordeal involving physical harm or the threat of physical harm. A new study has revealed that journalists who report on life-threatening events are at increased risk of developing PTSD and anxiety. The study assessed the emotional well-being of reporters covering violent events in Kenya.
For the study, researchers focused on two traumatic events, the 2007 election violence that left 1,000 Kenyans dead and the attack on the Westgate Mall in 2013 when Al-Shabab insurgents killed 67 Kenyans.
Lead researcher Anthony Feinstein, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto in Canada, said, "A notable finding was the markedly different psychological responses from journalists to their coverage of the election violence and the Westgate Mall attack. The primary reason for this is likely to have been their proximity to danger."
The majority of journalists who reported on the Westgate massacre were not directly exposed to danger, while journalists reporting the 2007 elections experienced the post-election violence at first hand as neighbor turned on neighbor, communities were destroyed and the media in some cases became the focus of mob rage.
Feinstein said, "Here the risks were life threatening, the dangers underscored by the number of journalists injured. The deeply traumatic nature of this exposure to violence is highlighted by the fact that seven years on from the rioting and mayhem, prominent symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety remain. We hope that this study will encourage news organizations in Kenya and other African countries that send journalists into harm's way to look out for their psychological health and offer confidential counseling as a matter of course."
The findings appeared in the JRSM Open.