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Since May 2017, Dean has been the Head of Journalist Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy at Reuters, a newly created position for the international news service's 2,600 staff around the world. Prior to that, Dean was a journalist, bureau chief and editor for Reuters for 25 years. He reported extensively on war, conflict and natural disasters in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Dean wants to use his unique job at Reuters, the world’s largest multi-media news agency, to spread the message about better workplace mental health, not just to media organizations but the wider global workplace.
Dean's battle with PTSD and moral injury
Throughout his 20+ years as a journalist, Dean encountered and documented many tragic events including a nightclub massacre that killed 202 people in Bali in 2002 and a tsunami that killed 165,000 in Indonesia’s Aceh province in 2004. Of all the horrific things he’s experienced, what haunts him most is the killing of two of his Iraqi staff by a U.S. Apache helicopter on the streets of Baghdad in July 2007. Namir Noor-Eldeen, a 22-year-old photographer, and Saeed Chmagh, a 40-year-old driver, had gone to East Baghdad to check out reports of an American airstrike in the area. They found themselves among a group of Iraqi men, some of whom appeared to be carrying weapons. The helicopter opened fire, killing Namir and Saeed and 10 others. As the Baghdad bureau chief, it was Dean’s job to try to hold the Iraq team together during their intense grief and anger, write stories on the attack and oversee an investigation into what happened.
Years later, the impact of the deaths of Namir and Saeed and the other traumatic events he’d covered caught up with Dean. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in early 2016. Several months later, Dean was admitted to Ward 17, a PTSD facility run by Austin Health in Melbourne. It was there he learned he was also suffering from moral injury. (Read more in this story: Return to Ward 17: Making Peace with Lost Comrades.) While in Ward 17, Dean also began thinking about how he could help his fellow journalists once he got back to work. In his new role, Dean wants to create a culture at Reuters where journalists feel comfortable talking openly about stress or mental health issues and where managers respond with empathy and support.
I actually think that having PTSD has given me an insight into life that I would not have otherwise had... I think it has actually made me a better person, or want to at least be a better person, and to help people and to do things for the greater good and so I'm actually happier with the person I am now.
Dean’s career path
From 2007-2008, Dean oversaw a staff of 100 people as the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad. He was the first top news editor for Asia, from 2010-2012. In 2013, Dean relocated to Tasmania, where he oversaw coverage of the Asian defense story, including the surge in tensions in the South China Sea for a few years. Today, Dean is the Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Reuters.
Learn more about Dean
To learn more about Dean and his story, we encourage you to read the Reuters Investigates report: The Road to Ward 17: My Battle with PTSD and Return to Ward 17: Making Peace with Lost Comrades. You can also connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
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