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Myanmar Journalists have had a traumatic year

May Yin, one of the local journalists in Myanmar, has had a traumatic year reporting on the aftermath of the February 1, 2021, military coup.

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First, she covered pro-democracy protests in Mandalay, where the military shot dozens of people dead. Since May, she has been reporting on a rising armed resistance movement and the military’s efforts to suppress it by attacking entire communities with tactics including mass killings and the burning of villages.

“There is a lot of breaking news to report, so I haven’t been able to take a day off,” May Yin told Al Jazeera in January. “This whole month, I feel like I am in hell. My stress level is very high.”

Studies have shown that reporting on conflict and crisis can have serious effects on journalists’ mental health. It is not only the effect from the disturbing events that they witness, but also from secondary or vicarious trauma, which includes viewing photos or videos of traumatic incidents or speaking to survivors.

According to the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of Columbia University Journalism School, journalists may experience anger, difficulty concentrating, a sense of helplessness, and exhaustion as a result of witnessing trauma. They may also experience post-traumatic stress symptoms, including sleeplessness, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts.

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Erin Smith, CEO of the Dart Centre Asia Pacific, told Al Jazeera that in addition to the experience of covering harrowing events involving human suffering, factors including the workload and demands associated with journalism can heighten vulnerability.

“When you’re regularly exposed to death and destruction and constantly dealing with the pressure of deadlines … you are definitely a candidate for either primary or vicarious trauma,” she said.

Trauma haunts journalists, human rights workers in Myanmar  Al Jazeera English


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