Nine days ago, I was delighted to receive an email from an old friend and colleague, Dean Yates, who I had the privilege of working with for a few months at the Reuters Baghdad bureau in 2004. Dean had written from Australia after reading Aftershock. I’d had no idea that he had been wrestling with symptoms of PTSD, a struggle he newly documents in this stunning story with images, video and sound. I cannot recommend it highly enough: it is among the most moving and courageously honest accounts of a personal journey through trauma I have read. For a Reuters Facebook live interview with Dean, click here.
Of course, anybody can suffer a psychological injury, but Dean’s story offers a piercing insight into the risks faced by journalists. It’s standard now for big media organisations to offer employees ‘hostile environment’ training to help them reduce the risks of working in war zones. Though these do often have a mental health component, I’d argue that there’s still much more work to be done to help both journalists and editors better understand and mitigate the risks.
The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of Columbia Journalism School, has made a great start. Other journalists have also written vividly and bravely about their experiences of the aftermath of covering conflict, including another former Reuters colleague and friend, photographer Finbarr O’Reilly.
There’s much more to be said on this topic, but that’ll wait for a future post. For now, I salute Dean and everyone else, from all walks of life, who has found the courage to share their vulnerability to show others that they are not alone. As Dean’s story shows, with the right support, even the deepest wounds to the soul can begin to heal.
AFTERSHOCK EVENTS IN NOVEMBER:
MEN AT ARMS:
A panel of veterans, writers and experts with firsthand experience of the frontline discuss the challenges soldiers face both on the battlefield and once they return home. I’ll be joining Harry Parker, a former soldier who lost both his legs to an IED in Afghanistan and author of Anatomy of a Soldier; and Pulitzer Prize winning American Robert Olen Butler, author of Perfume River exploring the after effects of two wars – WW2 and Vietnam – on the lives of a father and son.
Sun 27 Nov 2016 1.30pm – 2.30pm
Southbank Centre in London.
(Weston Roof Pavilion at Royal Festival.)