As part of the Journalism Welfare Campaign, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and The Olive Prime Psychological Services (TOPS) Limited, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on September 10 at the PTCIJ office in Abuja to provide free mental health assessment and care for journalists.
The PTCIJ in recognition of the peculiarity of the journalist’s job and the effect it has on their psycho-social health, sought partnership with TOPS, a psychiatric health facility based in Abuja, to provide psychological support and counselling for journalists to ensure that their mental health is catered to.
The signing of the agreement by Joshua Olufemi, Programme Director PTCIJ, and Opeyemi Atanda, the Service Manager of TOPS, comes as one of the follow up action-oriented steps towards the holistic welfare of Nigerian journalists after previous comprehensive training geared at helping journalists build resilience in the face of the weight of the demands of their work.
This agreement is a fruit of the advocacy for the improved holistic welfare of journalists in Nigeria. It is an initiative which has its roots in the 2017 ‘No News Is Bad News Programme’ organised by Free Press Unlimited (FPU) organisation in collaboration with PTCIJ. The workshop birthed the Coalition for Whistleblowers Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF), a collaboration of investigative newsrooms and Civil Society Organisations working on Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom in Nigeria with support from FPU.
It is in fulfillment of the objectives of the coalition to fight for media rights that the PTCIJ launched its “Journalists Welfare Matters” project and a one-day advocacy workshop with the same theme recently to inform, educate, and promote the holistic welfare for journalists which includes care for the mental health of journalists. The coalition understands that the demands of the profession take its toll not only on the physical well-being of journalists but also on their mental health as holistic welfare will be incomplete without taking care of the psychological needs of journalists.
Increasingly, research has shown that journalists are growing prone to psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and other mental illnesses. These psychological disorders had previously been thought to be prevalent among journalists who are at the frontline covering war, conflict, and disaster. However, a number of journalists who are not covering clearly traumatising beats are presenting with symptoms of mental disorders from work-related stress.
This situation is perhaps understandably so as the boundaries of conflict are shifting from country borders to non-defined lines within them as is the case with the unrest in the north-east, south-south and north-central regions of Nigeria; and journalists are exposed to these conflicts as they occur in the course of their role as reporters. In a report on the psychological effects of reporting violence by American Journal of Psychiatry published in September 2012, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has a lifetime prevalence rate of 28.6 per cent, 14.3 per cent for alcohol use, and 21.4 per cent for Major Depressive Disorder among journalists reporting a violent conflict.
Amidst all of these is the challenge of freedom of the press especially in developing countries where there are still laws that criminalise certain journalistic duties. Reporters are unlawfully arrested, detained without trial, harassed and tortured for doing their jobs. The cases of Samuel Ogundipe and Jones Abiri are recent examples of such violations against journalists and freedom of the press in Nigeria. Such negative exposures predispose journalists to psychological disorders and present a strong reason for the welfare of journalists to include care for their psychological well-being.
Journalists are as much susceptible to trauma as the people in their stories, and working in conditions that do not take cognisance of this makes them even more so, thus. The collaboration between PTCIJ under its ‘Journalism Welfare Matters’ project and TOPS is taking cognisance of this often ignored need and bringing the issue of the psychological welfare of journalists to the forefront. Journalists can under this programme access psych assessment, counselling services, therapy services, among others by reaching out to PTCIJ via firstname.lastname@example.org