Conflict journalists are starting an important conversation about PTSD in their profession

We don’t often consider the extraordinary sacrifices journalists make in order to report on conflicts all over the world. Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville, who recently wrote about IS Fighters for BBC, jump started an important dialogue online when he posted about an unprompted conversation he had with his fellow reporters and journalists about their PTSD.

According to the National Center for PTSD, it was assumed that journalists were not permanently affected by long-term exposure to reporting on traumatic events — much like ER doctors or firefighters. Over the years, many journalists have kept quiet for fear of appearing weak or incapable of handling their jobs. (In hindsight, it’s hard to see how consistent exposure to death, destruction, human suffering, and trauma could impact a journalist in any other way, no?)

Sommerville’s Twitter posts are not just doubly important, but also hugely courageous.

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Many other journalists also spoke up on the topic and how to face it.

What’s so amazing about Quentin’s posts is that it’s prompted others to share and discuss how they’ve attempted to recover from their own encounters. (After all, they have witnessed things that are, by all accounts, unimaginable to most of us, in the hope of illuminating the growing conflicts in regions many will never visit.)

Lastly, it’s important to acknowledge that there might be a cultural reason why journalists were afraid to speak openly about their personal trauma.

Twitter user Jack Relain nails it on the head in this tweet.

In recent years, more and more reporters have come out and spoken about their personal battles with PTSD. Reuters journalist Dean Yates penned an article which chronicled his journey from reporting to his eventual stint in a psychiatric ward. He entitled it, “The Road to Ward 17: My Battle with PTSD.”

To the journalists near and far, we salute you. Your bravery knows no bounds, and your work is important. We are grateful — but don’t forget to take care of yourself.