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The lifetime prevalence of PTSD in war journalists as 28.6% — 3.5 times the general population.

As a long-time CBC Radio and Television reporter, Curt Petrovich’s face and voice are familiar to many Canadians. For three decades, Curt’s radio and television reports have brought the country and the world into Canadian homes. Now based on the west coast, Curt has had the privilege — and burden — of reporting on big international stories.

Within minutes of receiving the call from his editors, he would toss his pre-packed bag into a cab and race to Vancouver International Airport. And YVR became Curt’s portal into tragedy and horror. From wretched refugee camps to a devastating tsunami, he witnessed terrible suffering but thought he had it all under control: “I may have been disturbed by what I’d seen but I just chalked it up to occupational hazard. At least, at the time that’s what I thought.”

body bags on the groundBody bags in Tacloban, Philippines

But in 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, Curt confronted breathtaking death and destruction. Seeing rows of twisted body bags shook him to his core: “You could tell that there were very difficult deaths inside those bags.” In his reporting, Curt remained cool and professional. But he crumbled on the phone to his wife back home: “He could not stop sobbing. And at that point, I mean my skin prickles now thinking about it, I knew that he was in trouble because that was not Curt.”

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Listen to an interview with Curt Petrovich on The Current
 

Years of observing other people’s trauma suddenly took their toll. Inside, Curt shattered: “I don’t remember the flight. I don’t remember landing. I don’t remember walking through YVR. I don’t remember what I did when I got my luggage. I don’t even remember coming home.”

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

In 2014, Curt Petrovich was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.  LOST ON ARRIVAL: Me, the Mounties & PTSD captures Curt’s courageous efforts to rebuild himself from the inside out, pushing himself to the edge of physical and psychological limits. From running marathons to experimental psychedelic drug treatments, Curt tries anything to get back to the present, back to himself.

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Work helps too, when he can manage it. Even while on medical leave from the CBC, Curt keeps researching a journalistic obsession – was justice done in the aftermath of the 2007 taser-related death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR? Curt’s unrelenting pursuit of the story is a very personal form of therapy and he finds himself with some unusual fellow travellers — four Mounties whose own PTSD began one terrible night at YVR.

LOST ON ARRIVAL: Me, the Mounties & PTSD grants viewers intimate access to Curt’s family as it struggles to support a husband and father whose behaviour has changed so much that he’s almost a stranger. The irritability, outbursts of anger, and black bouts of depression unmoor Curt’s wife, Yvette, and unsettle their children.

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This documentary is a stunning departure in storytelling for a reporter who spent 30 years behind a cool conservative professional persona. “Curt Petrovich, CBC News” takes the mask off for this documentary precisely because he is a consummate journalist: if the story focuses on PTSD, he must reveal himself. While doing so, Petrovich also brings to light the remarkable story of what happened to four Mounties whose lives were also lost on arrival at YVR.\

UPDATE: Petrovich has written a book Blamed and Broken: The Mounties and the Death of Robert Dziekanski. Listen to him talk about the case on CBC's The Current.

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