They report on what causes PTSD in the rest of us. For us, all it takes to set off PTSD is the “one” time that was too many. Sometimes, that one time comes with the only time we survived. There is a growing number of reporters experiencing their “one too many” times and it is easy for us to understand that what they go through over and over again, can have a lasting impact. Stephanie Foo, Marcella Raymond, Colin Butler, Chris Cramer, and David Morris are just some joining the club no one wants to belong to.
Workers who keep Canadians up to date on the latest news of the day are suffering disturbingly high levels of work-related stress and injury.
Nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) of journalists and media workers are suffering from anxiety and 46 percent go through depression, according to the “Taking Care: a report on mental health, well-being, and trauma among Canadian media workers” report.
Another 15 percent have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the report based on the survey of 1,251 news executives, desk editors, frontline reporters, and video journalists.
The Madness by Fergal Keane review – the BBC correspondent on conflict, fear, and PTSD
17 Nov 2022
For Keane, many of these memories are of Rwanda. Going to testify at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which he saw as a moral duty, triggered another breakdown: “I dreamed vividly of the dead, horrible images that caused me to wake sweating, sometimes fighting in my sleep with arms flailing, knocking over my bedside lamp. I had experienced such symptoms immediately after the genocide but now they were accompanied by crippling anxiety. Panic attacks kept me in bed for days.”
Fergal Keane at the Ukrainian army frontline at Peski in Donbas, 2016. Photograph: Unknown/BBC/Fergal Keane A brutally honest exploration of the ethics and motivations of war reporters, and of Keane’s own demons
Journalists are unpopular, as a profession, but war correspondents get a rare pass. In films, books and the wider culture there is a dark glamour, a reckless heroism that attaches to people (mostly men) who head with laptop and camera towards battles that other civilians are fleeing.
Fergal Keane, one of the most celebrated faces of BBC news, embodied that myth. His new book The Madness, part memoir, part meditation, picks it apart. He explores with brutal honesty why he and many colleagues travel to conflict zones in the first place (it is different, of course, for journalists who have war break out on their doorstep), and keep going back when their mental health is fraying.
“Nobody forced me” begins his account of multiple journeys to see first hand the cruel things humans do to each other, from missile strikes to terror attacks and genocide by machete and club. He knew he was risking his mind amid the violence, as well as his life, but couldn’t stay away. That mixture of fear, vanity, inadequacy, driving ambition: this is as familiar to anyone who has spent time with a press pack in a war or at its margins as explosions, checkpoints and guns.