A Senior Registrar in Psychiatry, Dr Samuel Aladejare, has advised journalists to take care of mental health and go for regular medical checks for enhanced service delivery.
Aladejare, the President, Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Yaba, gave the advice at the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUI) News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Lagos Chapel 2022 Media Week Public Lecture in Lagos on Thursday.
The theme of the lecture was: “Security and Health of Nigerian Journalists: Emerging Consideration”.
He said that journalists should pay attention to their mental health as the nature of their profession could predispose them to some kind of mental health conditions.
He said studies had shown that journalists could suffer from vicarious trauma, which could lead to other mental health conditions if not identified and treated early.
Vicarious trauma describes the cumulative effects of exposure to information about traumatic events and experiences, potentially leading to distress, dissatisfaction, hopelessness and serious mental and physical health problems (Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre, DV Vic & DVRCV, 2021).
According to him, by reporting horror/war events, insecurity or violent situations and constantly navigating through the internet in search of news, journalists were sharing from the trauma of other people, which could affect their mental health.
The psychiatrist listed change in appetite, fatigue without clear reason, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, mania and headaches as some physical signs that could indicate that an individual was at edge of developing vicarious trauma.
“No doubt, journalists are always at the centre of insecurity hazards by the nature of their profession.
“But thanks to technology advancement; at the comfort of your room and with the smart phones, journalists can report violence situations without necessarily exposing themselves to the risks of insecurity/violence.
“To avert vicarious trauma; consciously pay attention to your mental health.
“The first step is to pay attention and self-monitor; watch out for changes in your emotions, behaviour, interaction and physical sensations.
“Talk to someone about these changes and always observe the three basics namely; adequate sleep, exercise and good diet,” Aladejare said.
The Managing Director of NAN, Mr Buki Ponle, urged journalists to prioritise their health and always make out time to go for medical checks.
Represented by the Head of NAN Lagos Operations, Mr Ephraim Sheyin, Ponle said that NAN had prioritised health, which made it to have set up the Health and Gender Desk to report issues of health as it concerned Nigeria.
“Presently, in Abuja, the agency has expanded the health clinic, which is being manned by a medical doctor and soon we will do same in Lagos office.
“The idea is to ensure that every staff has access to quality healthcare.
“For the insecurity that is bedeviling the country, I pray that those in charge of security including the journalist apply every effort to address it.
“As journalists, we do not have gun but we have pen; so, let’s use our pen to protect the country, while promoting its peace and unity,” Ponle said.
Earlier, the Chairman, NUJ Lagos Council, Mr Adeleye Ajayi, said that the overall welfare of journalists, including better salaries, comprehensive health insurance and other benefits were imperative to increase their output.
In his remarks, Ajayi said that journalists were always busy and rarely made time for themselves.
He said that journalists should be protected and supported by government and citizens.
According to him, journalists are faced with deadlines, overflowing inbox mails, poor salaries and benefits and at times no pay at all.
“Work-related stress can manifest in numerous symptoms of physical fatigue, sleeping difficulty, headaches, muscular tension and heart palpitations.
“Work-related stress is a ‘silent killer’ if not addressed, judging from the seriousness of its symptoms.
“The issue of remuneration of Nigerian journalists is, therefore, a crucial one.
“It is the responsibility of government to protect journalists and indeed, all Nigerians, while at the same time ensuring a favourable environment for them to carry out their duties.
“Government and its agencies are duty bound to ensure that those who commit crimes against media workers and any other segment of the society are brought to book to stem the reign of impunity,” Ajayi said.