Life as an international journalist comes with big rewards, but can also come at a cost. A high-octane lifestyle, marked by frequent uprooting between posts and the trauma of witnessing tragedy and loss, takes a toll on mental health. But getting help can feel like a nearly impossible task for such moving targets. A new service launched this summer is aimed at making access to therapy easier via remote video chat.
The Mind Field is a small but growing network of therapists who are available for video therapy sessions to help aid workers, volunteers and journalists in the field wherever they are. Anna Mortimer, a therapist and former Moscow correspondent for The Times, London (as Anna Blundy), launched the project along with two colleagues who have experience in the development realm.
“People who go into these professions are already on the run from unwanted feelings,” Mortimer said. “If you need to seek out adrenalin and danger, or even feel the need to help people who are much worse off than yourself, you already probably have some stuff to think through.”
Mortimer’s father, David Blundy, was a foreign correspondent and conflict reporter for the London-based Sunday Correspondent newspaper. He was shot and killed while on assignment in El Salvador in 1989.
She said he was of a generation of journalists “who would rather have died, and indeed did, than ever see a shrink.”
Mortimer said people facing trauma in the field often turn to drinking or other self-destructive behaviors to cope, while also becoming their own relentless critics.
“You’ve got this horrible double thing happening. You’ve seen awful stuff, and then you are very contemptuous and cruel to yourself for the way that you’ve reacted. It isn’t the type of contempt and cruelty that people would mete out to people they love.”
Interstate medical rules in the US can make remote therapy services tricky, so therapists in The Mind Field are all based in Europe and licensed by European authorities.
Mortimer added that people who are interested should understand that it’s ok to sign up for a single session and would not be pressured to commit to more. The cost is $100 per hour. Therapy is currently available in English, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Russian, and the organization plans to add other languages.
There is a Facebook page (@theMindFieldworld) where people can request access for a closed group that serves as chat support. For more information, you can find the website at themindfield.world, where people are also invited to share stories, even anonymously, about mental health issues in the field.