“Studying and Surviving the Pandemic’s Collective Trauma”

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The Story

“Studying and Surviving the Pandemic’s Collective Trauma”
by Elna Schütz
Undark, November 30, 2020

The Pitch

Note: I work both in podcasting and writing, and would be open to doing this as a short feature instead if you’d prefer.

Pitch: When society gets traumatised 

Collective trauma is a psychological concept that many people may not have thought about before, but with COVID-19 it has suddenly become globally relevant. South Africa is a society that is no stranger to intergenerational, communal trauma, and this crisis is sadly likely to leave deep psychological marks on a society all too familiar with inequalities and suffering.

In the past I have reported on collective trauma long after it has happened, such as in the fight against Apartheid, but this time I have the chance to ask the questions even as the slow, uncertain trauma unfolds.

This story would centre around psychological and psychiatric researchers and scientists as they track and try to understand how this unfolds. This will span from those working in mental health support to those who have worked with collective trauma and the effects of wounded leadership before. If possible it will position them not only as experts, but ordinary South Africans living through the pandemic.

This story is a great fit for Undark, because it hits the intersection of science and society in a fundamental way that is internationally relevant, while being culturally anchored in a nation with a multifaceted history of trauma.

None of these are confirmed yet, but I have good long-standing relationships with several of them.  

  • Dr Nomfundo Mogapi and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. She and her team have been working in this field for a long time and I am sure are watching the developments closely.
  • SADAG, the SA Depression and Anxiety Group are widely connected with mental health support around the country.
  • Hanan Bushkin is the founder of the Anxiety and Trauma Clinic.
  • Possibly social workers and others working in communities giving psycho-social support.

Bio: Elna Schütz is a South African freelance journalist working in radio, podcasting, and online across topics such as news, health, and culture. She has reported news for KayaFM and created podcasts such as for Proof by America’s Test Kitchen. She has written for publications like Daily Maverick, Ground Up, and New Frame, and photographed for the Associated Press.

She is also the founder of Podmeet, a networking project for podcasters. She previously worked at the Wits Radio Academy as a producer and presenter for various shows including ones focused on science, law, and business. Elna has won a Discovery Health Journalism Award for Best Radio Journalism and been nominated for Liberty Radio Awards repeatedly.

You can find out more about me and a portfolio of clips on my website, and I have dropped a bio below. Please take note particularly of the audio story Collective from a few years ago which touched on a similar topic.


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