Psycho-Social Support Helps Journalists Deal with the Trauma of Reporting on a Deadly Pandemic

By Leah Mushi, Internews Senior Program Officer, Tanzania

Interviewing and re-telling the stories of people affected by COVID-19 and its effects can cause stress and even trauma for journalists. Stories of illness, death, disability, and other trauma caused by the disease and its spread can take a heavy toll on reporters.

John Ngonyani, a psychologist in Tanzania, recommends that media houses should take mental health more seriously. “It can really affect people’s capacity, especially in times like these.”

Internews leads seminars on mental health for journalists in Tanzania

Ngonyani led four virtual seminars, hosted by Internews, for more than 100 journalists in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. He says the impact was profound.

“After the first session, I was stunned at how many journalists called me. They had been working on stories which had often upset them. So, they needed help. I reached out to some of my colleagues and we agreed to counsel for seven days, pro bono.”

Evarist Mapesa, a journalist at Radio SAUT FM in Mwanza who attended the workshop, says the counselling made him realize that mental stress was undermining his work. “I learned to take time out, to exercise, and to do things that will refresh my mind after the chaos of my job. The expert’s advice helped me find a better balance between work and home.”

Radio journalist Time Khamis Mwinyi from Micheweni FM in Zanzibar says the sessions made her more aware of how to empathize with sources and interviewees. “Different people react differently, depending on what they are going through mentally. As a journalist, you need to be calm and to bring calm, so they can tell their story in a relaxed state and give you the information you need.”

Internews’ Boresha Habari project is funded by the US Agency for International Development – USAID and implemented in partnership with FHI 360. It supports an open environment in which the media promote participation, inclusion, and accountability in Tanzania.

(Banner photo: Clinic in Tanzania during COVID-19 pandemic. Credit Community Eye Health/Flickr/CC)