Papers Offer Post-Combat Counseling

Article excerpt

Out of embed, but facing trauma?

More than most embedded reporters, Ann Scott Tyson of The Christian Science Monitor witnessed at close range the dangers of covering the invasion of Iraq. Not only did she share a tent with two embeds who were eventually killed, but she later flew out of the war zone aboard a helicopter that transported several body bags, including one holding NBC correspondent David Bloom.

In between, dead Iraqi bodies, surprise gunfire, and ear-splitting aircraft overhead did little to make Tyson and other reporters with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division feel safe. "I saw my share of gruesome things," said Tyson, who returned to her Maryland home April 10 after more than a month with the unit. "I did break down and cry several times because of the risk and trying to do my job all at once."

After more than a week back home with her husband and four children, Tyson said the war remains very much in her mind. "I will hear a boom or the sound of a plane, and I will be back there," she told E&P during a telephone interview. "I hear words used in the military, and it takes me back."

A 16-year Monitor veteran with no previous combat experience, Tyson said she has yet to start reading newspapers on a regular basis because of her aversion to war news and does not like talking about it yet. "Re-entry has been way harder than I thought," she admitted. "I've had to very slowly expose myself to the real world again."

Tyson is just one of hundreds of journalists who have returned -- or soon will -- from the combat region now that the serious fighting (if not dying) has ended. While some reporters will make easy adjustments, others will need help to deal with postwar stress, say psychologists. Those problems can range from low-level anxiety to nightmares to lack of sleep, and even to permanent emotional damage.

"It always depends on the person," said Roger Simpson, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the University of Washington. "Evidence of emotional impact may not surface right away." Simpson said news outlets should have a professional counselor or psychologist assess combat reporters when they return. …