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One way Reuters is trying to build resilience among its journalists

We recently offered an online resilience training programme to our 2,600 staff around the world. It’s one of a series of initiatives we’re rolling out at Reuters this year as part of our efforts to prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of our journalists.

The programme is called RAW Mind Coach (Resilient and Wise. RAW Mind Coach). It’s a 10-session online training module that aims to build psychological resilience. The programme was developed by experts at the University of New South Wales in Sydney who work in association with Australia’s Black Dog Institute.

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or significant sources of stress, according to the American Psychological Association. It means bouncing back. Resilience is not a fixed trait and when given the right knowledge, skills and strategies, is something anyone can develop over time.

We believe it’s important for our journalists to build resilience because of the demands of the job, whether our staff work in text, pictures, television, social media monitoring or graphics. Our journalists can be exposed to trauma and high levels of stress. The 24/7 news cycle, non-stop emails and smartphones also mean our staff rarely switch off.

RAW Mind Coach draws on evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural strategies. A pilot version was tested on Australian firefighters and evaluated through a randomised controlled trial, in which the resilience levels of participants who used the programme were compared against those who did not. The research spanned four years. I plan to blog about the results in the coming weeks.

Reuters journalists in a few locations trialled RAW Mind Coach last year. While the sample size was tiny, RAW Mind’s analysis of the limited data showed most users “strongly agreed” the exercises were helpful. There was also a “statistically significant improvement” on resilience scores.

About 250 Reuters staff around the world have signed up for RAW Mind Coach since it was offered in early April.

As with anything new, there have been some challenges. Two senior journalists who’ve registered have said they’re reluctant to do sessions in their respective newsrooms (both large). One said he would feel self-conscious closing his eyes at his desk to do guided meditation, which is part of every session. The other said doing RAW Mind would feel like personal time was encroaching into office time.

In response, we’re encouraging Reuters managers to encourage journalists to do sessions during normal work hours if that suits their staff. For some, the newsroom might be too noisy. One option is for staff to use training rooms or other spare spaces. Moving to a different area can be a good circuit breaker. (People can also do it at home)

One bureau chief emailed me last week, saying she had talked about RAW Mind Coach at a recent news meeting, adding she would do sessions at her desk to make it OK for her staff to do likewise.

The other big challenge of course is finding time to do RAW Mind Coach. In response to my nagging, my boss has agreed to let his assistant put a session into his calendar each week for the next 10 weeks. While I’d like to see him schedule 2-3 sessions a week, I reckon it’s a pretty good solution for someone up to his eyeballs in meetings and conference calls.

Dean Yates is Reuters’ journalist mental health and wellbeing advocate. ■