Coping with Bad World News – Youth Sharing from Janice

This article is part of a series on “Coping with Bad World News”, where we interviewed youth on their personal tips to look after their wellbeing.

Today’s interview is with Janice To, a Year 1 student at the University of Melbourne studying Biomedicine.

For more information on this topic, check out our resource on “Coping with Bad World News” here.

How can bad world news affect our mental health and why is this topic important?

No matter which social media platform we use, we are bound to come in contact with information or news about the world. When we see bad world news or hear unsettling information, this triggers stress hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) to be released to deal with negative emotions. In the past year, people spent more time at home due to COVID lockdown and online learning. With less time to meet people and participate in extracurricular events, we have nowhere to go for entertainment apart from our phones and computers. Most of the time, we are exposed to information and news about situations all around the world such as global warming, car crashes, earthquakes etc. We are constantly being informed about COVID situations all over the world, causing us to worry and possibly fear for ourselves and our family and friends. When a tragedy strikes and is reported in the news, more than 6 in 10 people would have feelings of grief, sadness or worry (see “Stress in Generation Z”). Long term exposure to such feelings and stress hormones will affect our mental health as well as our physical health. Some common symptoms of the physical effects of bad world news are insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. 

What are your personal tips on coping with bad world news that you want to share with other youth? 

Different people have different levels of tolerance towards different things and bad world news is one of them. Some people may feel unaffected after reading or watching bad world news, while some may feel overwhelmed or fatigued. Understanding your tolerance levels before reading bad world news is a good idea and would allow you to limit your exposure to unsettling information. Staying off social media and using it infrequently during the day would limit news consumption and stress hormones produced. For those who feel fatigued easily when in contact with unsettling news, it would be a good idea to have news in print rather than on social media or the television as this allows you to physically put down the newspaper when feeling overwhelmed and give yourself space. Before being exposed to world news, it is a good idea to check in and ask yourself how you are feeling. If you are feeling down or anxious, it may be a good idea to reduce the amount of media and information intake. Limiting media scrolling to around 30 minutes a day and putting away electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime would help reduce stress levels and induce sleep. When reading the news, read more than just the headline. Usually, headlines are designed to be catchy and attract attention to get an emotional response out of readers; thus, it is a good idea to read more than headlines when browsing the news or social media. When reading bad world news, it is also a good idea to take a step back and assess whether the information you are getting is complete or biased.