Under Pressure: The Emotional Hazards of Being a Freelance Journalist

Journalist Stuart Hughes and Prof. Anthony Feinstein took part in a conversation on 17th November to discuss the challenges around mental health faced by freelancers

To coincide with the second Global Media Freedom Conference, held jointly by the governments of Canada and Botswana, the Rory Peck Trust hosted an online session to explore some of the issues around mental health and reporting. How can freelance journalists increase their resilience and bolster their emotional wellbeing while covering difficult stories, traumatic events, civil unrest and conflict?

Under Pressure: The Emotional Hazards of Being a Freelance Journalist took place on Tuesday, 17th November and was the second in a new series of online events for freelance journalists. We were joined by Anthony Feinstein, the renowned Canadian psychiatrist who first made the connection between psychological issues and war reporting in his landmark paper A Hazardous Profession, and Stuart Hughes, a long-standing world affairs producer at the BBC and a member of the Rory Peck Trust’s Advisory Committee.

While many staff journalists have access to employee support programmes, freelance journalists don’t have free access to much-needed services such as psychotherapy. A combination of exposure to traumatic events, financial insecurity, long hours and a lack of institutional protection all contribute to psychological distress for freelance journalists, which inevitably impacts their ability to continue working. An increase in trolling and online harassment, which can lead to physical attacks, has also led to additional stress in recent years.

Stuart and Anthony offered practical tips and advice on self-care for freelancers, particularly while covering traumatic and challenging stories, and provide much-needed strategies for maintaining emotional wellbeing while on the job.