Stigma scares female journalists from seeking mental healthcare

Seventy-nine per cent of female journalists and HRDs say they have experienced some form of violence in their line of duty, which included sexual harassment, insults, physical assault and even death threats. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Social stigma attached to seeking mental health services is pushing female journalists away from seeking help.
  • Nation Media Group, Standard Group, and Royal Media Services have provided their journalists with this facility, but uptake among women is low.

Social stigma attached to seeking mental health services is pushing female journalists away from utilising psycho-social support mechanisms provided by their media houses, a new report by Article 19 has revealed.

The finding is based on an online survey of 64 female journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) in Kisumu and Mombasa. Researchers investigated the need to provide female journalists and HRDs with psycho-social and legal support.

It established that although Nation Media Group, Standard Group, and Royal Media Services had provided their journalists with this facility, the uptake among the women was low, attributing it to the fear of social stigma.

Work-related stress

But the journalists faced many internal and external threats that heavily affected their performance. Worst of all is that their families were part of the agents that extended their struggles to cope with the work-related stress.

Seventy-nine per cent of the female journalists and HRDs said they had experienced some form of violence in their line of duty, which included sexual harassment, insults, physical assault and even death threats.

“Most of the work-related online violence was anonymous trollers. The trolling from anonymous sources was particularly difficult to deal with because they gather intelligence on social media about their work and familial connections to post personal insults, for emotional abuse and threaten the lives of their family members,” reads part of the report.

Sexually harassed

They complained of facing social stigma from family and community which extended to being assaulted physically by their spouses and extended family.

“This violence is driven by the perceptions that their work leads to the neglect of expected domestic gender roles,” states the report.

While the female journalists reported having suffered workplace bullying, sexual harassment, and physical assault, they were silenced by fear of stigma and public criticism, a culture that encourages continuity of the abuses.

The report cites a former radio journalist in Mombasa who had to temporarily quit her profession after her sources routinely sexually harassed her.

The report states: “When she consulted her superiors at the station, nothing was done to contend with the issue. At the same time, the radio journalist feared reporting her situation to her husband and other family members – fearing this would lead to a backlash and accusations against her of “tarnishing the family name.”


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