How does the media create compassion fatigue?

March 22, 2011

When we are traumatized by someone else’s trauma, we may experience compassion fatigue. While I discussed this in an earlier post in terms of vacations and leisure  http://whyhealthcommunication.com/whc_blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=628], it is worth talking about in terms of so many images and messages relating to Japan’s earthquake[s], tsunami[s], and nuclear power threats…  I daresay that anyone who has watched the news over the past week is experiencing compassion fatigue. How could we not be? The images are heartbreaking, frightening, and constant…

Susan Mieller, author of the book–Compassion Fatigue–[interview about the book at http://web.mit.edu/cms/reconstructions/interpretations /compassion.html] emphasizes the role of media in creating this condition. We have to focus on what we can do and not what we cannot do. We cannot go backwards and second guess decisions about how nuclear power plants in Japan have been maintained. We can do what we can do to help the Japanese people…even if it means watching ‘American Idol’ for a bit of distraction and downloading some music. We can try to understand the role of nuclear power in providing energy in the U.S. and seek direct answers about how the existing plants have been maintained…

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2 Responses to “How does the media create compassion fatigue?”

  1. Aimee Hilton says:

    This blog post puts a great spin on how the disasters in Japan really do effect the American Society. I know I always have Japan in my thoughts and prayers before going to bed at night, but until now I never really thought about the fatigue it could be putting on me. Through a project in another Communications class, I spoke about how the disaster in Japan over-rides another disaster. We quickly forget about the disaster on the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Katrina, and Haiti. People effected by these disasters are still trying to rebuild their lives and homes. This just causes more compassion fatigue as it hits so close to home, you want to help in someway. It is interesting that you bring up how watching American Idol or even enjoying a good joke can help the people in Japan. As much as I want to help them, they also help me; they help me by pushing me through the fatigue. As I am stressed over the loads of school work and graduating in May, I am reminded that I have a comfy bed to lay in at night and a family I can easily call. The disaster in Japan helps me combat fatigue by reminding me not to sweat the small stuff, I could be much worst.

  2. Autumn Ciliberto says:

    People living in the U.S. feel as human beings are in no one way ever going to escape compassion fatigue. As individuals consistently surrounded by negative images through media such as News shows (CNN) or even certain television programs. This issue with compassion fatigue occurs because we can’t escape all of the negative consistency being thrown are direction. Also as human beings when we our over taken by amounts of stress or anxiety we tend to feel hopeless and unable to fix or change anything. As a society to deal with issues we seem to go through this SOC layout of events. For example with a disaster, such as the earthquake within Japan, the first stage our society seemed to go through was the Precontemplation. The process starts out providing the details to inform individuals. Making them aware of what happened and to what degree the severity seems to be. By increasing awareness through multiple media outlets our society has a difficult time avoiding becoming aware of the incident. Our society does a really good job at this stage is a short amount of time; the only issue seems to be accurate information and the proper awareness being taken in by people. The second stage contemplation deals with dramatic relief and cognitive appraisal. Issues to deal with dramatic relief are usually given to us from important given to us from the people within our lives that we go to seek information (e.g. doctors, nurses, newscasters). When the earthquake occurred many people looked to news reports and the sources able to provide different information dealing with the issue. These individuals recommendation try to help benefit the situation and give us a task to try and improve a serious tragedy. The second stage also deals with cognitive appraisal, which is to evaluate personal values and link them to a problem behavior or recommended practice. People need to be influenced to see if something like the earthquake is affecting their own lives and the effect it’s having. This would help determine to what extent they are going to try and fix the issue. Certain people may see a problem with the situation or are surrounded by tragedies frequently, making them feel little compassion toward the situation. Preparation is the third stage within the model, this stage would be the step were individuals begin to change and start to take certain action towards fixing or bettering the problem (e.g. earthquake). This stage can be one of the hardest to begin because it’s the stage were you adjust you’re routine you’ve grown to like and become use to. If this step if taken under and individuals begin to express this stage within their lives, the action stage will follow. Within this stage individuals would start to change aspects of their schedule and begin to substitute alternatives for a problem or behavior. An example within the blog was to watch American Idol and download music (sending profits to Japan). If this wasn’t normally apart of people patterns and then they adjust and make sure in incorporate X amount of hours of American Idol a week this is a change. The last stage is maintenance and it deals with reinforcing management. For example many times when a tragedy occurs and people begin to volunteer or raise larger sufficient amounts of money to put toward a problem there is usually some kind of recognition for those individuals who raised the money or helped out. When the people accept an award or whatever kind of acknowledgment it may be, this is displaying a sense of reinforcement. If individuals take the earthquake tragedy and make sure to become aware of and accept and maintain new behaviors to stay true to fixing a problem, even if it may be a short term, they have gone through and completed the SOC stages and Transtheoretical model.

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