Telling CBC Reporter Curt Petrovich’s Painful Story About PTSD
Telling CBC Reporter Curt Petrovich’s Painful Story About PTSD
By Helen Slinger  

I’ve known Curt as a reporter for years: super intelligent, utterly focused and very organized. I knew how obsessed he was with the Robert Dziekanski’s taser-related death at YVR, and the Mounties’ twisted passage through the justice system. Nobody had covered the story as thoroughly.

We talked about a documentary on the Mounties involved in Dziekanski’s death but, before we began filming, Curt “came out” about his PTSD, diagnosed in 2014. We agreed that this had to be part of the film and, in fact, would enrich it – five men, all trapped in the past. 

Watch Lost on Arrival: Me, the Mounties and PTSD

We filmed the first lengthy interview with Curt late in 2015. A few months earlier, he had completed a round of psychedelic therapy (MDMA and psychotherapy) and Curt was fragile, but definitely on the mend. Still, when we began filming, I was astounded at the person who met the lens. Curt Petrovich, the CBC News persona that I knew best was always very intense but also presented as quite straight-laced and buttoned-down, extremely conservative and private. That autumn afternoon, the Curt who spoke about his PTSD was without a mask. He was emotional and fragile and open. 

SCENE FROM THE FILM: Curt had trouble accepting his diagnosis at first.

I realized I’d have to walk a fine line between capturing a compelling story and discerning how far Curt could go into his experience without triggering PTSD. Would there be a point where filming was harmful? We checked in frequently during the months of filming and occasionally took breaks to allow Curt some time when he wasn’t being dragged back into his traumatic past. 

But no matter how painful it got, Curt kept going, letting us into his life when I know he would have preferred that we vanish into thin air. The reporter in him could not turn back and would not hide. If the story was PTSD, and he was the main subject, then he had to tell the story as honestly and completely as he possibly could. 

In the months that we’ve been working together, I’ve come to realize that, in many ways, the two storylines came together in that moment when he first sat down, without armour, to be interviewed. Whether it’s the Dziekanski story or PTSD, there was a determination to peel back the layers, and like any good reporter, get to the heart of the story.

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