Mental health guide for journalists
Human Face

Mental health guide for journalists

As I have said repeatedly, journalists are an endangered species. Many of us have suffered, at some point in our careers or vocation, some form of traumatization.

“May is Mental Health Awareness Month,” the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) announced, “a reminder of the significant emotional tolls reporting can take on journalists while bringing us the truth. At the IWMF, we believe that prioritizing journalists’ physical, digital, and mental well-being is critical to a thriving and sustainable global news media.”

IWMF has come up with “A Mental Health Guide for Journalists Facing Online Violence” which provides step-by-step instructions on how to deal with online violence that impacts journalists’ well-being.
Reporters, IWMF adds, endure serious first- and second-hand trauma even while bringing the news to the world. The guide provides journalists with tools and tactics to protect their mental health. Now also in Farsi and Arabic, the IWMF guide is available online. Media organizations and individual journalists can download the 32-page guide. (Click

I printed and read the guide and found it useful for journalists who suffer online violence along with actual physical threats that could be carried out against them by those who do not like the truth exposed and the evildoers of this world unmasked. Those in other professions can also use the guide.


Psychoanalyst Ana Maria Zellhuber-Pérez and psychologist Juan Carlos Segarra Pérez prepared the guide. Both are specialists in emergency psychology. Zellhuber-Pérez has worked with international organizations to provide psychological support for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress, and depression. Pérez has 20 years of experience with journalists, human rights defenders, and victims of violence.

So you see, journalists can be severely traumatized like anyone else. Their work can be so demanding that journalists might have to put up a front of invulnerability even while they are breaking apart inside.
If you have watched the movie “A Private War,” a biographical movie about war journalist Marie Colvin (played by Rosamund Pike), you will know what I mean. If you have read Patricia Evangelista’s bestselling “Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country,” or the Philippines’ first Nobel laureate Maria Ressa’s “How to Stand Up to a Dictator,” you would know what some journalists, women especially, go through when they speak truth to power.

Think of the journalists in far-flung areas who brush elbows with formidable local politicians and warlords. These journos are treading minefields that could explode on them any time. Sometimes all it takes is one bullet, isang bala ka lang, as the street-corner saying goes, and a radio announcer is suddenly off the air because a gunman entered his broadcaster’s booth. I also think of our Quezon-based Inquirer colleague (he who calls himself ”peryodistang promdi”) who still has a bullet lodged in his back.

War journalist Marie Colvin was one of a kind. A celebrated war correspondent, Colvin lost an eye during an ambush in Sri Lanka but she simply returned to the war zones with an eye patch. She died in 2012 while covering the siege of Homs in Syria. She was 56. In 2016, her family was awarded $302 million in damages after it was proven in court that the Syrian government had directly ordered her assassination.


IWMF points out that online violence is often considered “a digital safety issue” which might suggest that it is not immediately life-threatening. IWMF counters: “This is particularly true for women and diverse journalists who are disproportionately targeted by online attacks. Time and time again women journalists told us that access to more mental health support was vital for combating the effects of online violence.”

While seeking professional help is needed in extreme situations, IWMF’s guide offers mental health exercises to ease the effects of online violence (bashing, threats, intimidation, or harassment). Understanding the cause and effect, the guide points out, is important in protecting oneself. Checklists are provided.
Here are the exercises offered. Each one has step-by-step instructions to follow: 1) diaphragmatic breathing, 2) psychological emergency techniques, 3) anxiety management techniques, 4) acute stress management techniques, 5) panic attack management techniques, 6) insomnia management techniques, 7) depression management techniques, and 8) PTSD therapy. Most can be followed alone or with colleagues, privately or in public places.


While the mental health guide is a first-step resource, a first aid, so to speak, IWMF has an emergency fund that can help in acute moments of distress. The fund provides psychological care grants for incidents directly related to threats and crises caused by work in the journalism field that Filipino journalists and those covering the wars in Gaza and Ukraine could avail of.

Journalists in the trenches need to remain mentally healthy.

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TAGS: Mental Health, opinion

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