Artwork: Jack Forbes
Artwork: Jack Forbes

Psychological safety

Journalists are as vulnerable to psychological trauma as they are to physical and digital threats. Approaching these threats holistically and preparing accordingly not only enhances your overall safety, but helps to protect your colleagues and sources.

This safety note is available in Français, Español, Português, در فارسی ,العربية

To minimize the risks:

Understand trauma:

  • Trauma occurs when a person has a physical or mental reaction to a stressful event that affects their sympathetic nervous system–the fight-or-flight response–and parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body.
  • Trauma affects a person the same way that a toxin might. Reactions can depend on the intensity, duration, and frequency of exposure to stressful events.

Know the warning signs:

  • Difficulties concentrating.
  • Unusual irritability or short temper.
  • Images or thoughts related to a project intruding at unwanted times.
  • Unusual isolation or withdrawal from peer groups or social situations.
  • Disruption of sleep.
  • Increase in self-medication.

Develop tools and resources to help you cope:

  • Maintain social connections.
  • Schedule recovery time and a debrief with your manager, a colleague, or therapist after a stressful assignment. Establish peer-support networks.
  • Look for trauma specialists or individual counseling.

Explore strategies for implementing self-care and resilience:

  • Develop a positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities.
  • Work on skills in communication and problem solving.
  • Work on your capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses.
  • Learn from past experiences.
  • Stay flexible.
  • Identify where to look for help.

For additional information and tools for psychological safety preparedness and support, visit CPJ’s Resource Center.