in ,

Reporters, take charge of how much violence you’re exposed to for your mental health.

Dear reporters, take charge of how much violence you’re exposed to [I know most of it is out of your control] but please do it for you, those you love and for your mental health.

In the last elections, I covered two of M7’s closest contenders. On at least each day of the campaign we were exposed to violence through teargas, bullets and crowd dispersing. Those events, despite appearing as part of my job then, damaged my mental health – nearly irretrievably. My decision making patterns pre 2015 and post-2016 changed dramatically. I became less emotional, and very detached. I could – and still do – feel very little empathy to people suffering immense pain, mostly because I have seen multitudes of people suffer it.

After the Kasese post-election violence, seeing tens of bodies lying and rotting away for almost three days and getting in touch with the very scent of death, I became very insensitive to any pain that was ‘below’ that kind of pain. By the time we covered the South Sudan violence and landed in an ambush, my mental health was gone. I detested writing [something I love] my relationships suffered all round, I suffered flashbacks most of the time.

By the time I signed up to active therapy and finding a good therapist too, I had suffered immense PTSD. Something that I can’t describe to you how horrible it eats at you. I can stand in a teargas crowd with bullets flying and people dropping and only care about what is the best angle to tell this story. [It isn’t normal!] You will be applauded by the public and you will generally feel you’re contributing your piece to the country but if you damage your mental health. Post-election newsroom settling in will be hard. Why?

Stories that don’t involve violence will become ‘small stories’ and you will neglect very good stories that deserve to be told or tell them poorly. You will mistrust EVERYONE including the very people who care for you deeply. In my case, the events of having a driver who later turned out to be an inside job chauffeuring me for two months made me mistrust EVERYONE! Because of mistrust, you’ll share less with your editors and there will arise an environment of animosity. You’ll be lucky to not quit your job or be sacked altogether. But the worst will be the effect it will have on the people who care deeply about you. People who ask you what you’ve had for lunch will cease being people who care about you and you’ll suspect them of ill-motive.

The uncontrollable moments of helplessness you will feel will increase with the violence you see. You’ll cry uncontrollably on nights for nothing in particular but sometimes for people you saw bleeding that you then think you could have helped. There will be people you see and even talk to and minutes later they will be shot dead. You’ll blame yourself for not helping them or stopping their killing mostly because reporters are fed the narrative that their stories actually help change society

You will also generally have less time to process events because of the strict deadlines. By Midnight after your last debrief with the editor you’ll have just five hours before you wake up to more roller coaster events till campaigns are done. Violence and exposure to it also give you a very poor sense of problem-solving. Rather than get good solutions, you’ll want the quickest fix to the problem, know why? Because the quickest fix to a canister is to run away from it

Quick tips on limiting the violence you’re exposed to: 

1. Negotiate with your editor. Tell them you’re uncomfortable going into crowds that will likely be met with violence. 

2. Talk about everything you saw. Everything. EVERY. LITTLE. THING

Very few Ugandan newsrooms [and believe me I have worked for the finest of them] have provisions for actual mental health care – if it happens it will be one talk per quarter. Insurance doesn’t cover therapy too. Please, please, please, please, I beg you reporters and frontline cameramen, TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. Limit the violence you are exposed to by your job. I’m a gone-case but I share this with you because if you still can, make better choices! 


This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!


Written by Mujuni Raymond (1)

Journalist, News Anchor, Columnist, Editor. Show Host. Investigative - at times. Awarded.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The arrest of Bobi Wine