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Journalism, mental health and COVID-19

Journalism plays an essential role in the COVID-19 response, but the unique stresses placed on newsrooms by the pandemic can cause mental health problems for those covering the crisis.

We recently spoke with Dart Centre Asia Pacific Managing Director, Dr Cait McMahon OAM, about staying psychologically healthy when covering COVID-19. In a pair of Melbourne Press Club videos, Dr McMahon gives her tips for maintaining mental wellbeing as a journalist in this time, and provides advice for editors and chiefs of staff.

Dr McMahon has many great suggestions in the videos, but one particularly interesting tip raised the “new concept” of moral distress.

It’s “not so much about the graphic exposure of trauma, but more the undermining of one's moral compass when you are witnessing or exposed to acts... that really compromise your belief in humanity,” Dr McMahon explained.

“I'm hearing this from journalists working as fact checkers who are coming across lots of content which is deliberately misleading.

“A way to maintain your resilience when you're exposed to this is to really reflect well on your own sense of purpose and mission.”

Dr McMahon’s advice for news chiefs is also incredibly useful. Those leading newsrooms are not only coordinating coverage of an extraordinary and disruptive world event, but also have to look out for the physical and mental health of their staff.

Checking in with remote workers is critical.

“It's important to not just check in with them work-wise and how they're going with a story, but checking out how they're faring emotionally,” Dr McMahon said.

There are many other great tips for looking after staff, yourself, and fellow leaders in the videos.

The Dart Centre has many great resources about reporting on trauma, which are freely available at dartcentre.org. You can also contact Dr McMahon via the Dart Centre website.

Watch Dr McMahon’s tips for journalists

Watch Dr McMahon’s advice for news chiefts


Other resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for all of us, journalists included. The MPC is keeping a list of links to articles, guides, online events, and tools to help media workers covering the current pandemic.

The list can be found on our website.

Thanks go to the many organisations that are doing the hard work putting these materials together.

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