How is TV news impacting your mental health?
Supreme Court has recently pinched the Tv news channels on hate speech.
Ketki Shukla | Disastrous is the word Pune-based Muslim scholar and activist Razia Patel uses while talking about the impact news channels have on people’s mental health.
“Media is one of the most important pillars of democracy, but it is forgotten these days. Except for one or two, most channels try to spread lies, hatred, fear and psychosis resulting in loss of faith in communal harmony, creating enmity, making people more and more insecure, it has become a business based on it,” Patel says.
The Supreme Court of India last month, criticising TV Channels, said that channels should draw a line for their freedom of speech. Stressing on hate speech, the bench added, “Hate speech is a layered thing, like killing someone, you can do it in multiple ways, slowly or otherwise. They keep us hooked based on certain convictions.”
Journalism has and shall always mean providing authentic information to society but lately, electronic media that is TV news channels have redefined the way it is provided. TRPs, commercialisation and controversial remarks that catch the eye of viewers and listeners have started creating a psychological impact on society, especially in the post-Covid world.
“Such kind of aggressive debates, hate speech does leave an impact on any individual causing irritability and frustration. Unemployment and anxiety post-Covid have kept people hooked to screens making news channels a continuous watch throughout. This has also caused emotional instability in the younger generation,” Dr Krishna Kadam, Senior Psychiatrist at Maharashtra Institute of Mental Health and Sassoon General Hospital said.
An estimated 12 billion working days are lost each year to depression and anxiety, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates cost the global economy nearly one trillion dollars. The United Nations Global Health and Well-being Sustainable Development Goal calls for 80 percent of nations to integrate mental health into primary healthcare by 2030. However, WHO data published in 2021 showed only 25 percent of nations had a system in place to do so.
Amid all this, the way the news revolving around the violence and negativity against vulnerable communities, minorities etc. is covered by the news channels has been receiving criticism, more so in recent times.
“Many news channels jump upon Hindu-Muslim stories and present them in a very provocative manner and with huge bias against Muslim community probably to cash upon the rising Hindutva wave and increase TRP and gain points from the current government authorities. They do not present a real picture on the ground but show what people will like to see. They are very upbeat to show media trials with violation of the right of privacy by poor people from vulnerable communities,” Patel added.
Indian society has always been sensitive to the media. TV holds a great power when it comes to influencing its viewers and listeners. It is not just the hate speech that makes or leaves an impact but recently channels have also started showing viral reels and videos of social media as a source of news/information.
“Because of live updates and repetitive portrayal of sensitive content, unemployed youth with poor educational background or addiction issues, comparatively have higher chances to act negatively under the influence of media showcased content,” Dr Kadam added.
Priyadarshi Telang, Human Rights Activist, told Indie Journal how frustrating and intolerable it becomes to keep watching the debates on news Channels which show how unreasonable and insensitive the anchors are.
“In reporting atrocities against vulnerable communities, the 'manu'stream media using hate speech makes the guilty seem innocent and vice versa. Therefore, news Channels and their reporters/anchors need to mind their biases and become more sensitive,” says Telang.
Look at the number of Hindi News Channels who invite Tour Operator @MSajidRashidi & introduce him as an 'Islamic Scholar'. Why do you have to go to Hindu-Muslim TV debates and represent all the Indian Muslims. Why don't u boycott?#WhenWillMuslimsBoycottTVDebates pic.twitter.com/Q6u4FHiPl1— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) May 30, 2022
He adds, “The victimisation of vulnerable groups is always reflected in the stories that are covered by the reporters. The questions that are posed to survivors, show how caste-biased these people are. Ironically, with the rise of social media, the so-called alternate media also behaves like the mainstream.”
WHO also says that one in seven adolescents aged between 10 and 19 lives with some form of mental health condition. This is also a vulnerable stage of any individual’s life to get influenced because of unusual speech that they hear or listen to impacting their behaviour.
“Unknowingly, because people watch news channels with a lot of engrossment, dullness and instability become very common in such viewers. I know an example of a boy (18-19 years old) who was studying Law, and would watch a lot of news channels to stay updated as a requirement of his course. But because of continuously watching the repetitive content that was majorly sensitive he started relating it to his own life. The aggressive language or hate speech caused him anxiety issues,” said Shriya Khalate, Counselling Psychologist.
The politicisation of news channels, repetitively showing some viral political trends on social media is also misleading the youth and creating a social and technological divide. Biased journalism also affects the image of the media in people’s eyes, giving them a reason to hold grudges which eventually can also result in anger issues.
“The Supreme court has commented harshly on such practices by media anchors generating undue debates and inviting people on channels who speak in very provocative languages. There is very seldom any story by journalistic research which is truth-revealing and helping the deprived,” Patel adds.
Hence, this World Mental Health Day with the theme of ‘Mental Health in Unequal World’, psychology professionals in account to news and news channels suggest that do not start or end your day by bombarding yourself with news updates. Limit yourself to sensible and reasonable information.