The invisible battles: Mental health among war correspondents (includes video story)

Reporting from war zones can deeply affect journalists’ mental health, often leading to conditions like PTSD. Understanding these challenges is crucial for supporting the well-being of war correspondents.

For many years we have witnessed agonizing scenes from war and conflict zones through the lens of courageous journalists who risk their lives to uncover the truth in the most dangerous places on earth.

But behind the headlines and brave faces lies a hidden struggle.

After being exposed to traumatic scenarios, mental health issues can arise. One common condition is Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), which typically occurs in the first month following the trauma. If symptoms persist beyond this initial period, it may develop into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A study conducted by the US Department of Veterans Affairs revealed that compared to other journalists, war correspondents reported higher weekly alcohol consumption and higher scores on measures of depression and PTSD.

“Some people become isolated and they just drink a lot. I’ve seen it happen. They can really damage your life. One of the things you have to do when you do this over and over again is find a way of staying healthy physically and emotionally” Erika Angulo, a reporter and producer that has been in the field for over 20 years. 

Angulo mentioned that years ago it was not common to reach out to mental health experts. Instead, communication helped them to cope by gathering with peers to talk and share their experiences in some sort of group therapy.

Organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is a global press freedom non-profit organization, play different roles. From advocating to creating awareness on the violations, the arrests, the killing and the imprisonment of journalists around the world. Lucy Westcott, CPJ Emergencies Director, said that last year the organization granted 584 journalists with assistance; help with trauma was the main one requested.

As we honor the bravery of war correspondents, let us also remember the importance of supporting their mental health.

Pamela Correa is a graduate student from the Journalism in Spanish Language + Multimedia Program. From the Dominican Republic, this proud island girl enjoys the beach, music and dancing. She majored in psychology, minored in sociology and is now looking forward to this new journey on the communications pathway.