Psychological Health

Need support but not sure where to turn? Here are some immediate resources for journalists in crisis:
1. Committee To Protect Journalists  – CPJ’s newly launched Emergencies Response Team (ERT) provides comprehensive support to journalists at risk, whether frontline war correspondents or local journalists covering sensitive stories. The team is made up of experts in digital and physical safety, support and advocacy. We work to prevent deaths, detentions, kidnappings, and other dangers by sharing information with journalists on existing and developing risks, and working to promote safety through the development of risk assessment mechanisms and contingency planning. When information and prevention are not enough, the ERT works as a crisis management group providing on-the-ground advocacy and rapid response support (including emergency grants) to journalists who are injured physically and/or psychosocially, imprisoned, or forced to flee or evacuate because of their work.

The ERT has a number of resources available on the CPJ website, which include real-time safety advisories and a comprehensive Journalist Security Guide available in 11 languages. We also provide journalists with resources, including information on grants, fellowships, and awards.

ERT members contacts:

Maria Salazar Ferro, Emergencies Director: msalazar@cpj.org+1 (917) 621-7070 (can be reached via Signal or WhatsApp)

Colin Pereira, Journalist Safety Specialist: cpereira@cpj.org

Nicole Schilit, Journalist Assistance Coordinator: nschilit@cpj.org

Ela Stapley, Digital Security Consultant: estapley@cpj.org

You can reach the ERT via email at report_violations@cpj.org, Signal or WhatsApp at +1.929.522.6192, or via SecureDrop (click here for more information on how to use SecureDrop).

 

2. IWMF Emergency Fund – For female journalists seeking support in critical situations

https://www.iwmf.org/programs/emergency-fund/

 

3. Rory Peck Trust Emergency Assistance – For any journalists (and their families) facing a critical situation

https://rorypecktrust.org/freelance-assistance/Assistance-Grants 
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 3219 7867/7865 or email assistance@rorypecktrust.org

 

Why does it matter?

Emotional stress is often an uncomfortable area for discussion. But if left unaddressed it will manifest itself in one of many other ways. Journalists dealing with PTSD often find alternative coping mechanisms, sometimes via alcohol or substance abuse. Dr. Anthony Feinstein, author of Journalists Under Fire, points out that nearly a third of “war journalists” are at risk of PTSD. That is, six times more likely than non-journalists – a rate parallel to that of soldiers. Freelancers in particular may need to prove a level of consistency and quality of their work, and thus to admit to suffering form mental illness may feel like admitting defeat. But this could not be further from the truth.

Conflicts are no longer fought simply within the realms of a traditional battlefield, but also fought amongst civilians, against opponents not wearing uniforms. Before, the enemy was obvious, marching down a battlefield. Now, the enemy could by anyone or anywhere, sometimes even in the guise of an innocent child, causing consistent duress. This constant duress, the horrors that are witnessedare difficult to deal with.

 

Key elements

Taking time out and making sure you’re looking after yourself in all areas of your health is crucially important, both for your mental health and your ability to keep doing the job.

Talking with other journalists can help enormously and enable you to check in on each other.

And there are tools that can be learnt and self-applied to help centre the mind, mind-body techniques designed to reduce the flow certain hormones after physical or emotional stress.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are resources available for freelancers. Because psychological health isn’t as obvious as physical health it can get forgotten, or problems spring up later on. Staff journalists often have support services offered to them after especially troubling jobs, or that they can access in their own time, when needed. For freelancers it’s more difficult. Pinpointing when a problem started can make it difficult to claim on the insurance an organisation provided for a particular job, and you may be concerned that speaking up will make it less likely for you to get work.

You wouldn’t go running on a broken leg, so don’t keep trying to go off to work when you’re psychological health is suffering. Get help and make sure it’s dealt with, so you can keep doing the job you love.
Additional resources:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/safety
http://dartcenter.org/gateway/journalists
http://www.istss.org/Online_Trauma_Training.htm
http://www.newssafety.org/latest/insi-news/insi-news/detail/ptsd-podcast-1514/