Editorial: PTSD-affected journalists need better support

It’s an understatement to say that journalism is a difficult career. While local journalists struggle to adapt to shrinking newsrooms, their counterparts reporting from unstable regions are often put into physically dangerous situations.

Going from a safe, war-free country like Canada to somewhere like Burma right now, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are facing military violence and fleeing their homes, poses a serious threat to journalists’ mental and physical well-being.

Many journalists return from conflict zones suffering and scarred, without the proper outlets to recover. Some even develop post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental illnesses as a result of witnessing and experiencing trauma.

The support they receive from their employers upon return is simply not adequate. Journalists who have been embedded in dangerous areas overseas need a stronger support network to help them cope with trauma and re-adapt to civilian life. Many organizations offer mental health support, so why should this differ when it comes to news outlets?

For instance, newsrooms could fund psychological assessments or therapy sessions for returning journalists to help them acknowledge their experiences and learn professional coping strategies. Reporting from unstable areas is important, but it shouldn’t be more important than journalists’ health and ability to recover.