In 2015, The Week highlighted the psychological impact of witnessing executions. They profiled reporter and spokesperson Michelle Lyons, who spent a decade watching 278 executions. Lyons reported a wearing down over time as she got to know the inmates.
In their survey of San Quentin State Prison employees, many reported anxiety and said they “felt estranged or detached from other people.” Data published by The American Journal of Psychiatry also showed that witnessing an execution had a strong psychological impact on journalists—and could “cause symptoms of dissociative disorder… in the weeks following.”
These journalists often had no close connection to the condemned and actively tried to remain detached throughout the process. They also had no physical contact with the individual, and yet they still showed the same signs of social detachment afterwards.
This means that without the proper care, spiritual advisers will see an impact in the very area that is most required of their ministry: connecting with people. Ironically, that sense of human connection—which causes them pain in watching their parishioner executed—is the very thing that could undermine their ability to be effective in that role in the future.
Pastors who walk out of the death chamber and back to the pulpit will be forever changed.
“If their right hand is on the dying, who will hold their left to support them afterwards?”https://t.co/TMxKuNdS5C
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) May 28, 2022