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Help for journalists on surviving traumatic events

Some injuries heal – some don’t.

That’s the message journalists, news directors and other media staff shared at an ABU News Group special workshop in Hanoi, Vietnam on coping with trauma.

Hosted by ABU members VTV and run by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, the workshop looked at the impact of trauma on the victims of traumatic events as well as the news people covering them.

More than 30 media professionals from the Asia-Pacific region learned about the impact of violence, disaster and tragedy on journalists’ emotions, behaviour and body, helping them to understand the relationship between psychological safety and physical safety.

They were taught to recognise the importance of sensitive and ethical treatment of victims and survivors of trauma who become the subjects of news and also to become aware of the importance of the craft of trauma reporting on news consumers, to avoid ‘re-traumatise’ the public.

Managing Director of the Dart Center (Asia-Pacific) Cait McMahon explained how being exposed to violence or threat can evoke extreme helplessness, horror and fear that challenges the mind – and may cause emotional injury, so it was important that news managers look after their staff and consider the victims and survivors they report on. 

“Common reactions to psychological trauma such as sleeplessness, agitation, sadness, tears, shock, numbness or trembling were normal common human responses.  Most people are resilient and would recover, but some would not.  Just like a physical wound that does not repair, some will continue to have nightmares and feel fearful.  In such cases professional help may be needed” she said.