Author Topic: Charlottesville Quebec Photographers and PTSD  (Read 106 times)

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Offline Ken Gigliotti

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Charlottesville Quebec Photographers and PTSD
« on: August 24, 2017, 10:55 AM »
Charlottesville and Quebec race demonstrations ,it's time to check the health of  photographers regarding (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome Disorder.

News Photographer Ryan Kelly shot the violent fatal car vs demonstrators collision in Charlottesville,he was working for the Daily Progress and it was his last day on the job. During his interview with CNN he doesn't say why it was his last day,he may have been going to another job or it was a planned layoff.

The point I am making is that he is a prime candidate for PTSD. The sheer violence of the terror act would be enough to cause this disorder. It may not show itself right away.This photo will bring a lot of unwanted attention at time when he may not want or expect it.

I know for a fact that Canadian network news organization would have someone talk to staffers witnessing events like these and offer counseling the next day. Newspapers not so much.

The fact that Ryan Kelly was not going back to his paper is problematic.

I was in a similar situation, going to a new job shortly after witnessing a traumatic event while on the job that effected me for the rest of my career.
It is never easy to admit to mental illness in most work places. It is treatable and because there is photographic evidence, the doctors involved can understand the severity of the injury better than in most cases that come to their door. The photographs also help in the treatment.

Going untreated is like putting this traumatic event into a little box and have it spring open unexpectedly when facing similar but less traumatic situations.

Photographers cover demonstrations all the time ,so the likelihood of  re-injury in the form of a debilitating flashback is likely.

PTSD takes the form of nightmares. These initially are a good thing ,they show the sub conscious mind is bruised , it doesn't know what hit it and it is trying to figure it out. Nightmares are a start to reliving the event until the mind is ready to let it go and move on. But the packaging away , and not seeking help , family doctors have a non drug  strategy for PTSD,untreated  it will cause severe problems. Sounds like a revving engine,squealing tires,  crowd noise, screaming, confrontation will bring back the trauma unexpectedly and with intense force.

Treatment works ,it worked for me even though I waited years and suffered greatly. Treatment for PTSD is most successful  when sought early. Just talking with a trusted friend about the details and how the feelings played out as it was happening and afterwards is a big start to healing.Untreated, PTSD can cause much worse problems, alcohol , drug abuse, depression leading to relationship break up and death.


During the Montreal demos the next week a TV reporter and photographer were assaulted. The news desk had the reporter tell the story about how he was pushed down stairs of the parking garage where demonstrators were holding the demo. At the end it was revealed the photographer was also assaulted and had been camera taken away and “spiked” to the ground. TV photographers are pretty vulnerable,the cameras  are big and awkward ,leaving the shooter in a  blindsided and top heavy balancing  situation .

The first instinct is to refuse treatment , but this is like a brain bruise, it takes time to develop the swelling. If the two journalists are offered help by the company, the HR people/ news editor should insist they take it , even if it is in an abundance of caution.
Ryan Kelly would not have that choice,his next employer should make the offer out of good will. PTSD symptoms are easy to Google. This is a very common problem for photographers who are forced to see the events frame by frame. Reporters are not often in that position unless it is a confrontation. Opinion by Ken Gigliotti