After reporting on a particularly raw disaster in the Philippines in 2013 Mr. Petrovich returned home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the same illness we now diagnose in military and paramedic personnel who experience - or witness - horrific brutality, destruction or ghastly accidents. It is also increasingly diagnosed in young children according to Dr. Bruce Perry, a leading psychiatrist in the field of pediatric trauma.
PTSD is a debilitating mental illness and Mr. Petrovich's story is a chilling testimony to how years of reporting on gruesome incidents have taken their toll to re-wire his neurology. It has affected his personal life and his day-to-day health, and his ability to work is diminished. These are common symptoms of PTSD.
Yet Mr. Petrovich's story begs the question: What happens to the brains of young children who also experience horrifying events through radio and TV newscasts? We know from research the brains of young children are still in development and can only partially understand the context of the information being conveyed. We also know they confuse real and fictional events and make many different kinds of neural connections and assumptions about information they process, so there is some likelihood they experience excessively violent TV and radio news at deeper levels than adults who can contextualize and compartmentalize news: oh, that's another murder in Chicago (not so important to me); oh, that's a kidnapping in the Phillipines (not so important to me), etc.
And we know from studies of pediatric trauma that young children are at risk of developing many symptoms of trauma when they are directly exposed to domestic violence, accidents and other such events.
It's time to put two and two together: young children inadvertently exposed to violent TV and radio news, either frequently or infrequently, are clearly at some risk of developing the symptoms of PTSD themselves. Science tells us this risk is valid.
Mr. Petrovich's story reveals he is not alone in experiencing mental anguish in carrying out the responsibilities of a job for which he is most passionate. One study referenced by the CBC shows the lifetime prevalence of PTSD in war journalists as 28 per cent — over three times the general population.
In fact PTSD is surprisingly common: Almost eight per cent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. During the course of a year, 5.2 million Americans aged 18-54 have PTSD — adjusted for population size, that would translate into approximately 520,000 Canadians.
The risk of developing symptoms of PTSD in our children from consuming violent TV and radio news is a threat to the well-being of our future citizens and the welfare of the country.
Let's do something about this. Let's tell the CRTC and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters to re-visit their 'Violence Code' of 1993, get better informed about the nature of pediatric trauma, and dial back the violent content of Canadian TV and radio newscasts.
Sign the Choose News petition today and help make this happen.