Researcher Welfare 2: Mental and Emotional Well-being and Self Care
This page points users to resources and tools on ways for online extremism and terrorism researchers’ to ensure their mental and emotional well-being and engage in self-care.
It is important to note at the outset however that if you are being negatively mentally and emotionally impacted by your research that you should contact your GP or a mental health professional. The latter are often available to university faculty, and sometimes graduate students too, via occupational health channels. While the resources below cannot replace the advice of a professional, we recognise that not all researchers have health coverage and/or access to such services, which is one of the reasons for this section of the site. The other reason is to alert online extremism and terrorism researchers about the potential mental emotional toll of this research and the need for self-care.
You will notice that most of the available resources are targeted not at academic researchers, but at activists, journalists, and others, but are nevertheless directly relevant because they speak to many of the same issues faced by researchers in our field.
If you are familiar with additional resources on these topics that could be added to this page, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are especially interested in learning about resources that speak to researchers’ experiences, particularly those in our field.
Advice and Guides
Building Resilience for Terrorism ResearchersFeaturedVisit
VOX-Pol Blog post (Sept. 2018) authored by Peter King and available in English, French, German, and Spanish versions.
Handling Traumatic Imagery: Developing a Standard Operating ProcedureVisit
Authored by Gavin Rees, Coordinator, Dart Centre Europe (April 2017).
How to Stay Mentally Healthy while Doing OSINTVisit
In this Janes Intelligence Unit podcast, Peter King, an extremist media consultant and co-founder of IbexMind, which helps organisations build resilience to the effects of exposure to distressing content, discusses a range of practical techniques that researchers can apply – both on an individual basis and in teams – to keep mentally healthy while conducting research (45 mins, May 2020).
This section of PEN America’s ‘Online Harassment Field Manual’ is designed to offer ideas for practicing self-care and seeking out community during online harassment.
Self-Care for Activists: Sustaining Your Most Valuable ResourceVisit
This NewTactics ‘dialogue’ addresses issues such as ‘Defining Self-care and Its Importance,’ ‘Challenges to Providing and Performing Self-care,’ and ‘Creating a Culture of Self-Care,’ including seeking to answer questions such as ‘What Can an Individual Do?’ and ‘What Can an Organization Do to Provide Self-care?’
Working with Traumatic Imagery: Six Practical Things Media Workers Can Do to Reduce the Trauma LoadVisit
Produced by the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma of Columbia Journalism School.
Journal Articles and Reports
Anthony Feinstein, Blair Audet, and Elizabeth Waknine. 2014. ‘Witnessing Images of Extreme Violence: A Psychological Study of Journalists in the Newsroom.’ JRSM Open 5(8).Visit
This free-to-access article “suggests that frequency rather than duration of exposure to images of graphic violence is more emotionally distressing to journalists... Given that good journalism depends on healthy journalists, …reducing the frequency of exposure may be one way to go.”
Jaigris Hodson et al. 2018. ‘I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends: The Ecological Model and Support for Women Scholars Experiencing Online Harassment.’ First Monday 23(8).Visit
This open access journal article contributes to understanding the phenomenon of online abuse and harassment toward women scholars by identifying levels of supports—personal and social; organisational, technological, and sectoral; and larger cultural and social attitudes and discourses—they sought during and after their experience with online abuse and harassment.
Adrienne L. Massanari. 2018. 'Rethinking Research Ethics, Power, and the Risk of Visibility in the Era of the “Alt-Right” Gaze.' Social Media + Society 4(2).Visit
This essay explores what the “alt-right” means for social media researchers in terms of research ethics, risk, and visibility.
Charlie Winter. 2019. 'Researching Jihadist Propaganda: Access, Interpretation, and Trauma.' (Washington D.C.: RESOLVE Network).FeaturedVisit
The final section of this open access report “focuses on trauma and the potential for research on IS, AQ, and other extremist propaganda to cause lasting psychological harm to researchers.”
Blog Posts and Media Reporting
Hannah Allam. ‘“It Gets to You.” Extremism Researchers Confront the Unseen Toll of Their Work.’ NPR, 20 Sept., 2019.Visit
Chaseedaw Giles. 'I’m a Black Social Media Manager in the Age of George Floyd. Each Day is a New Trauma.' Los Angeles Times, 23 June, 2020.Visit
Michael Krona. ‘Vicarious Trauma From Online Extremism Research: A Call to Action.’ GNET, 20 Mar., 2020Visit
Paris Martineau. ‘The Existential Crisis Plaguing Extremism Researchers.’ Wired, 2 May, 2019.Visit
The Researcher Security, Safety and Resilience project (REASSURE) project is documenting and detailing researcher welfare issues, as experienced by online extremism and terrorism researchers themselves.