What to do about depression in newsrooms, on the beat

internship, newsroom
Ashishana Justina, The Nation’s correspondent in Niger State in her #Journo-Inspiration series writes about a recent case of suicide due to depression and makes a case for journalists to pay attention to their mental health
In journalism, oftentimes, we fight the battle of others but when it comes to issues affecting us, no one cares or bothers to fight for us. A lot of people think Journalists don’t have challenges or battles to fight.
Why am I saying this?
I was on Twitter last night and saw a trending hashtag #RIPDele and reading through the tweets was very depressing and sad.
How can someone live with depression for seven years and spoke to no one about it? Dele did what he could do to end the depression in his life, he took a plunged into the sea after leaving a suicide note.
In his note, Dele said, “life is like a party when you stop having fun, leave”. But that is wrong because no motivational quote can justify suicide action.
I have always insisted on being nice to people, say kind words to them and treat them nicely. Maybe, just maybe, when you do these, you will be able to prevent someone from taking a dive out of this life. Sometimes, just being silent and giving a listening ear can save a life.
Who knows if Dele had tried to speak to someone? Who knows if he was laughed at when he shared his pains or what was going through in his life? Who knows if when he needed a kind word, someone shoved him aside or gave him a snide remark? Who knows? We wouldn’t know because he is no more alive to tell us about it.
Why do I relate this instance to Journalists?
As Journalists, we face a lot of issues that if someone else faces would make the person depressed for weeks. Imagine covering an agency where you hear stories of how little girls or even babies are raped and molested daily?
Imagine visiting IDPs and hearing their depressing stories? Imagine doing investigations and discovering the number of women who die at childbirth due to lack of adequate medical care or facilities! Imagine speaking to families of bereaved! Imagine going undercover to expose some wrong!
And imagine being threatened from all quarters! Imagine the first call you get when you wake up is a call of threat or a rant about a story you took your time to do! Sometimes, after all these experiences, all you need is a kind word or caring attitude but when you don’t get this, it can lead to depression.
However, I urge you, my colleagues, not to keep this within yourself, have someone you can share your thoughts and experiences with, have somewhere you can go and de-stress once in a while, sometimes, just be naughty and have fun just to lift those depressing thoughts off you. I know in Nigeria, we are not big fans of therapy but getting therapy or counselling will not make you be seen as weak but rather a strong person who wants to face his/her challenges up-front.
While it will be hard not to cover some stories that can give us depressing thoughts or push us into a depressing mode, it will be good if we don’t keep it bottled up and embrace having groups that would address these issues.
Furthermore, media owners also need to organize sessions to address the mental health of their staff and encourage their staff to speak about their challenges in the field and even at the home front.
While everyone needs healthy mental health, Journalists need to pay special attention to theirs because they neglect it a lot.
To everyone, suicide is not the way out. Please talk to someone, don’t keep your problems bottled up. Please speak up.
Please no matter what is happening to you never take suicide as an option.
RIP Dele

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