USA TODAY International Edition

Help each other back from hell on earth

War correspond­ents don’t talk about the survivors’ guilt or nightmares, but that must change

- Trey Yingst Foreign correspond­ent Trey Yingst is Fox News channel’s foreign correspond­ent.

The past year, while covering the war in Ukraine, I have reported under incoming fire, seen lifeless bodies strewn across landscapes and experience­d complex grief that I still process today.

I know firsthand the rush of adrenaline that clouds your ability to process emotions.

War changes you as a person. I’ve reported around the world, but the invasion of Ukraine has been especially difficult to bear witness to.

Studies show 92% of journalist­s experience at least four traumatic situations in their careers.

With mass shootings, weather disasters and internatio­nal conflict, reporters around the world are exposed to trauma each year.

Education, access to mental health resources and knowledge of productive coping mechanisms are critical to keeping our industry healthy and alive.

In the days after Russia invaded on Feb. 24, analysts said Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv could fall in a matter of days. As missiles rained down on the city and incoming artillery got closer, everyone covering the story had to make difficult decisions about their risk tolerance.

I don’t regret staying in Ukraine, but it carried a cost

I decided I would stay, even when most of our crew pulled out. It wasn’t a question for me. I don’t regret my choice, but the decision has altered my life and mind forever.

We feel OK, until we don’t. For many, post- traumatic stress disorder is not a cut or wound that stings immediatel­y, but rather a dull scar that remains dormant until a sound, a dream or a smell brings memories rushing back in a way that makes it hard to distinguis­h reality from imaginatio­n.

Everyone talks about the live reports amid incoming artillery, the front- line packages and the brushes with danger. Rarely do we discuss what it feels like to get home from a monthslong assignment and lie there in silence. We don’t talk about the nightmares, the survivors’ guilt or the loss of identity from getting too consumed by the story. That needs to change.

Those of us who cover war, conflict and unrest have a responsibi­lity to normalize the discussion around mental health and offer guidance to our colleagues across the industry that might be exposed to trauma in different ways.

Historical­ly, the profession has romanticiz­ed drinking and drugs as a way for foreign correspond­ents to cope with the trauma we experience while at war. Someone once described the job to me as “a poor man’s rock star.” We travel the world, appear on TV and roll up to large hotels with crews of people.

We must now face the music of habits we created.

There has to be a new culture in journalism focused on things such as meditation, exercise and cold- exposure therapy. You can be a tough, war- hardened correspond­ent who goes to therapy and knows how to communicat­e emotions. These things are not mutually exclusive.

We interview people on the worst day of their lives

We often are there for the worst day of someone’s life. For death and disaster. Hell on earth. Staying clear- minded, present and calm is critical. We have a job to do.

Access to mental health resources, learning about our brains and finding healthy ways to deal with our experience­s are important to our relationsh­ip with others and the relationsh­ip we have with ourselves. No matter where you work, if you’re struggling, ask your boss for guidance.

Fox News Media has free counseling sessions available and a mentorship program that can match staff members with people who have gone through similar things. This type of support needs to be available in every workplace that sends reporters into the field.

Addressing the struggles we face will also make us better listeners who can more acutely understand grief and trauma. From the mountains of Afghanista­n to the deserts of Iraq to the coast of Gaza, I have found one constant. The civilians and soldiers we interview don’t agree to talk to us because they want to be part of the story. They speak because there is something cathartic about sharing one’s experience.

Let’s take care of our own minds, so that we can keep telling the stories that matter.

 ?? PROVIDED ?? Trey Yingst, Fox News channel’s foreign correspond­ent, reports on camera from Ukraine.
PROVIDED Trey Yingst, Fox News channel’s foreign correspond­ent, reports on camera from Ukraine.
 ?? LIBKOS/ AP ?? Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions on Nov. 20 near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine.
LIBKOS/ AP Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions on Nov. 20 near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine.
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