The social, economic, and job insecurities created by the COVID-19 pandemic have started taking a toll on the mental health of working journalists in Nepal.

At least 100 journalists, who participated in a virtual discussion organised by Forum of Nepali Journalists and Namseoul University, South Korea, today, said that they suffered from various mental issues due to the COVID-19 situation.

Participants in the interaction 'Happy Strategy against COVID' have also stressed the need for immediate policies and actions to prevent journalists from falling prey to psychological disorders.

Bhawana (name changed), 24, a health reporter for a renowned news portal in Kathmandu valley, said during the interaction that her life had been adversely affected after she contracted the virus. Bhawana, who lives in a rented room here in Kathmandu away from her parents, had to go through a tough time during the pandemic.

"Even after I recovered from the disease I have not been able to recover completely from the psychological impact of the disease. "I often become too excited and get very depressed without any reason," she added.

Journalists also complained about media houses caring less about their safety as they often had to go to vulnerable places for reporting. "We don't even have proper sanitisers when we go to vulnerable places for reporting. And going back to the family at the end of the day is always a traumatic experience," another speaker at the programme said.

Majority of journalists at the event said that their mental health problems were largely related to job insecurity and financial problems triggered by the pandemic. Srijana Thapa, Assistant Professor of Namseoul University, presented a research paper on Nepali journalists during the pandemic. The paper stated that 83 per cent journalists reported increased sense of vulnerability, 75 per cent increased anxiety, 62 per cent increased grief, and 25 per cent experienced depression. This was largely related to job insecurities.

As per the research paper, 74 per cent journalists reported that the pandemic-induced situation had affected their income, with 38 per cent facing a pay cut and at least six per cent losing their jobs.

Psychology Professor Eunsil Kim of Namseaoul University, answering queries of journalists, suggested that if anyone experiences the symptoms of mental health illness for three months he/she should seek counselling from experts. "It is suggested that no symptoms should be taken lightly if seen continuously for a long time and medical help must be sought immediately," said Professor Kim She informed that people might show various symptoms for psychological problems like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder.

Common signs of being mentally ill are constant mood fluctuations, inability to get sound sleep or oversleeping, binge eating or not feeling hungry, inappropriate elimination of urine or faeces, sudden twitches, movements or sounds and panic.

Other symptoms of mental problems are persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, fatigue or decreased energy, difficulty in thinking clearly or quickly, irritability, frustration or pessimism, physical aches and pains and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Upsetting dreams or nightmares about traumatic past events are also symptoms of such ailments.

Kim advised that developing good eating habits, having good nutrients, getting regular exercises, keeping in touch with close ones for emotional support, and asking for help from people can keep one away from mental illness.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 22 2021, of The Himalayan Times.