The Atlantic explores the trauma affecting journalists and photographers, focusing on Ashley Gilbertson’s fight against PTSD.
“One of the truly great things about war that people don’t understand is that all you have to do is survive.” Gilbertson said. “You don’t have to make small talk with some shit-bag on the subway about how busy the day is.”
War simplifies and sharpens life, he said. Often, it made “regular life” unbearable.
But ‘surviving’ is about more than returning home with the same number of limbs you set out with:
Unlike the “Great Wars” of military lore, today’s conflicts are fought outside traditional battlefield. They’re fought amongst civilians, amidst neighborhoods, and against opponents without uniform. Instead of marching troops down the hillside with bugler and drummer in tow, modern militaries engage in battles tagged as “urban” or “kinetic.” In these new battles, the enemy is potentially everywhere, and the participants are almost constantly under duress. As a result, mental health experts now worry about the long-term consequences of wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
“These are the first conflicts in the history of modern warfare where combatants were sent back to the combat zone again and again,” said Dr. Harry Croft, a distinguished life fellow with the American Psychiatric Association. United States troops can spend nearly a year in battle with only a few months’ rest, or “dwell time,” at home before returning to the field. Dr. Croft, who has worked with veterans since the war in Vietnam said, “A great human experiment is going on as we speak, and we don’t understand the impact of long deployment times and short dwell times.”
Alongside these troops are cadres of conflict photojournalists who trade in and out of conflict just as frequently. But while soldiers return home, traumatized by their own experiences, the experience for journalists, who are often just as vulnerable, is usually overlooked.
“There are two kinds of war correspondents,” said Joanna. “There are the ambulance chasers who go where the action is, take the pictures and throw them up as if to say, ‘This is what’s going on.’ Then there is the kind that gets emotionally invested in the story.”
“[The latter] are the ones that are more effective,” she said. “But they’re also the ones that are most affected.” She believes that Ashley is a member of the second group.
(Via @johnedwinmason thanks John)