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Burying mental health stigma and building wellness

Dean Yates, Head of Journalist Mental Health and Wellbeing, is on a mission to help employees feel comfortable speaking with their managers about stress and mental illness.

I’m honoured to be taking on the new role of journalist mental health and wellbeing advocate at Reuters. There is much I hope we can achieve.

PTSD and moral injury

I want to help create a climate in which reporters, photographers, camera operators, deskers and other editorial staff feel comfortable talking to their managers about stress or mental illness – from the daily pressure of the job to burnout, depression, anxiety, PTSD or other conditions. I want to help managers get a better understanding of mental illness so they can respond with empathy to staff who are suffering. Many people don’t want to raise mental health issues because they fear it will harm their career. I get that. But we need to change that culture. We need to regard mental illness as we would any physical injury because the sooner someone gets help the greater the chance of recovery. That said, disclosure of a mental health issue is an individual choice and no one should feel pressure to do so.

Our work can be stressful: Snapping economic indicators, juggling several stories at once, persuading a source to talk. It can be traumatic: photographing the victims of the Philippine president’s war on drugs, covering the battle for Mosul or editing pictures and footage that contain distressing images.

I want the story of my struggle with PTSD to show there is an alternative to suffering in silence. I ended up in a psychiatric ward last August for five weeks. Thanks to support from my family, friends and Reuters managers, I am now functioning well.

CiC global counseling service

Reuters has a long-standing relationship with CiC, our global counselling service. Mike Christie, the general manager for global security and logistics, will continue to manage that relationship, as well as facilitate the Reuters peer network, which has had tremendous success in its first year offering an alternative platform for journalists to talk about trauma and stress.

My goal is to work with CiC on mental health literacy programmes for editorial managers as well as strategies to promote resiliency among our staff. I want to help people who are well, stay well. I want to make stress reduction activities such as meditation and yoga the norm at Reuters. Indeed, a mindfulness project will be rolled out in Washington, DC in the next month or so. Under this pilot, Reuters will offer mindfulness sessions to all staff. After Washington, mindfulness courses will be offered in London and Singapore.

Help is available

The CiC Global counselling service is available to any Reuters employee or stringer, as well as family members. It is also available to Reuters alumni. The CiC Global trauma hotline is manned 24/7 by qualified counsellors and psychotherapists, offering free, unlimited and confidential access to advice on a range of work and personal topics and, where appropriate, to counselling. I used CiC in 2007 when I was the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad. It really helped me. You don’t need to have been in a war zone to use CiC.

There is also the Reuters peer network, which allows our journalists to get help from experienced and respected colleagues. Using CiC or the peer network is not a sign of weakness or failure. It shows you realise you need help. That’s courage.

Ways to contact CiC

  • Via the CiC UK number: +44 (0)20 7938 0963
  • Via email: reuterssupport@cic-eap.co.uk
    Please adhere to the following format for your email messages:
    ** Plain text format not html email format should be used.
    ** Your subject heading should be left blank.
    ** The message body text should only contain the following:
    Your name, your position, where you’re phoning from, your telephone number, your email address, your preferred time to be contacted (state whether you are giving local or GMT time e.g. 1400 local, 1200 GMT).
    ** If necessary, the language in which you would prefer to be contacted.
  • Via CiC’s International Free-phone. Dial your international access number (e.g. 011 in the USA, or 00 in the UK) followed by: 800 0587 2991. You can use the CiC free-phone number if you are in one of the following 10 countries or locations: Canada, USA, Israel, Spain, Hong Kong, South Africa, Germany, Singapore, UK and France. If you are in Dubai, a separate number is available which is local and does not require an international dialing code: 800 044 0105

About Dean

Since May 2017, Dean has been the Head of Journalist Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy at Reuters, a newly created position for the international news service's 2,600 staff around the world. Prior to that, Dean was a journalist, bureau chief and editor for Reuters for 25 years. He reported extensively on war, conflict and natural disasters in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Dean wants to use his unique job at Reuters, the world’s largest multi-media news agency, to spread the message about better workplace mental health, not just to media organizations but the wider global workplace.

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