Jeremy Bowen has opened up about the events that triggered his own post-traumatic stress symptoms, as he detailed one of the moments during his career reporting from war zones where he thought he was “about to die”. The BBC Middle East editor spoke up about his own personal struggles with a stress disorder after his colleague Fergal Keane announced earlier this week he was stepping down from his role as Africa editor due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). BBC’s head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro said Keane’s diagnosis was the result of “several decades of work in conflict zones around the world”.
Speaking to BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Bowen described an event in the Middle East which “left a mark on his life”.
He said: “I’ve had times where I’ve thought, I’m going to die now, this is the end of my life, particularly during dangerous moments in wars.
“I didn’t develop the full condition of PTSD but I suffered from the symptoms after a Lebanese colleague of mine was killed by the Israelis.
“They fired a tank shell into the back of his car. I had just got out, I was only 100 yards away.”
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Bowen has opened up about the events that triggered his own post-traumatic stress symptoms
Keane’s diagnosis was the result of “several decades of work in conflict zones around the world”
He continued: “He managed to make his way out of the window to escape but he was on fire.
“I couldn’t get up there to help and when I did, the Israelis opened fire on me with a machine gun.
“These things leave their mark. We are human beings. We are not made of stone.”
He remarked that it was brave for Mr Keane to speak up because, as journalists at the BBC, they had been taught it was “not about us”.
Bowen described an event in the Middle East which “left a mark on his life”
Bowen explained: “We don’t particularly like talking about this things in public.
“But I take my hat off to Fergal for doing this, it’s important to talk about.
“We see people at terrible points in their lives and they suffer far more than us as journalists who have signed up to be there.
“But, life on the road, going to hostile and difficult places can create a perfect storm of stress.
“Particularly being away from home for weeks on end in difficult places where you might die.”
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Bowen has reported from several war zones during his long career at the BBC
Bowen has reported from several war zones during his long career at the BBC, including the Bosnian War in the 1990s as well as conflict-prone countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Egypt.
He added: “The guilt of survivors is a classic part of this syndrome. The world is a cruel place. And some people see it. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t leave a mark.”
In response to the outpouring of sympathy to his news, Fergal Keane tweeted last night: “To all who have sent messages re #ptsd thank you so so much.
“The compassion is so heartening. I’m not leaving the BBC but no more war or traumatising situations.
“In due course. I will talk about #ptsd but for now it’s time to focus on recovery and different work.”