Some of Tokariuk’s toughest moments include interviewing people who’ve lost family members. “Sometimes, I caught myself almost on the verge of crying because the stories were so heartbreaking,” she recalls.
“You have to try to keep a certain distance [from the story],” she advises — both for professionalism and for your own emotional well-being.
Amid everything, Tokariuk has tried to prioritise her mental health. She has been juggling “staying engaged with the news” and “taking long walks in nature” — something must be working because she says she doesn’t have burnout “yet”. “People have told me to take a break, but I can’t relax,” she adds.
She credits this primarily to a reliable support network of family, friends, and trusted colleagues, with whom she’s been able to share her most complex and intimate feelings.
Tackling Trauma In Journalists
Dr Frank Ochberg is a psychiatrist and a pioneer of trauma science. He co-founded the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma — a resource centre for journalists who cover violence, conflict, and tragedy worldwide — and the Trust for Trauma Journalism, which “supports journalists as first responders.”
For any reporter covering conflict, there’s a particular risk of developing a “moral injury”, says Ochberg. This refers to a powerful cognitive and emotional response that can occur after someone is exposed to events that violate their moral or ethical code. Tokariuk muses: “I think all Ukrainian journalists suffer from some kind of moral injury now.”
According to Ochberg, until recently, many journalists haven’t “paid explicit attention to the way they are physically, emotionally, and morally wounded.” This means they have often missed out on essential psychological support and haven’t been able to articulate their experiences, which can cause their mental health to seriously deteriorate.