How do we stand here and say, “Come forward, there is no Stigma anymore. You’ll be okay if you ask for help.” and then read a post like that in the National Post this month on PTSD Service dogs being a fashion item and worse, calling those with PTSD Service dogs frauds. How do you think this is going to play out for those out there with PTSD thinking about asking for help or debating whether to trust another human with their inner most secrets?
Brian Here. Yesterday’s era of reporters would never have put this garbage out there to begin with. That’s regardless of the topic. In the day when there was the noon hour news, and the six o clock news from 2 or 3 different station editors… well you know….. edited. They threw out crap. Multiple instances of crap would result in a firing. Now, editors largely scan the article just to make sure it’s a little different from what the other outfits who broke the story are already running. We need to understand that, so we can put a juvenile and unsupported piece of writing where it belongs.
Are they clueless?
No, not clueless, perhaps actually uncaring is closer to the truth.
I have found a remarkable and disturbing lack of empathy amongst media folk. There is a distinct sense of superiority in their attitudes, both written and spoken. Those who have walked the walk, who have been a cop or a serving soldier and now a journalist are the exception, even their politics are bit wonky but I put that down to the TBIs (smile). As are those who openly admit that they too fight depression, anxiety or have a loved one who does. With suffering comes humility.
Brian here: I’ve done a bit of media in recent years. They are not the enemy. But they do use us as a tool to do their job, so we have to be more savvy and use them just as shrewdly. When they want to entice you to do their piece, they want to hear everything you have to say. And during the interview, very personable. But after that last question is answered, they often bolt without saying goodbye and sprint to the shop to put together whatever it is they wanted to say anyhow, just with snippets and soundbites cut out of your interview to look like you said it. It’s a game. You don’t play unless you know how to play.
Weaponizing mental health and addictions appears to be par for the course in North American media. The recent election of Doug Ford to leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has seen a great wave of weaponized addiction posts. His brother who was famously addicted to cocaine, and Doug who used to deal drugs are lampooned by media who in the next breath (I kid you not) say things like, “Addicts are people too” and “Addiction doesn’t lessen somebody’s humanity”. I honestly laugh out loud at the pomposity and hypocrisy displayed by these moronic pseudo intellectuals.
Brian here: Very true. If there’s a way to portray the government as not doing enough, or the evil policeman not caring about the downtrodden, trust me you’ll see a piece that is 100% about the trials and tribulations of being an addict. But if the media wants to take you down, suddenly they need to know if back in the sixties, you inhaled when someone passed you a joint.
What damage did the awful Colby Cosh and his witch of an editor, Anne Marie Owens, do to those bravely stumbling towards a decision to ask for a PTSD Service dog to get them back to living? How many lives will we lose as a direct result of that asinine piece of shyte? I will tell you because I will be watching and I will be researching, I’ve had enough of this idea that people sit behind their desks and throw darts at those surviving Mental Health and Addictions are easy pickings, because like any bully they go for the weakest and less able to defend themselves.
What benefit was there to National Post, Editor Anne Marie Owens and scribbler Colby Cosh to not only publishing but then defending that post on PTSD Service dogs? The title of which was incendiary, which as they all know creates reactions thus achieving “engagement maximization”. In other words, they used a small group of PTSD Service dog owners to drive social media traffic to their media outlet and accounts. Modern media seeks to entrap you in a closed-loop and unless you become aware of it, fight it you will succumb. Those of you fighting mental health issues need to be aware of this and stop it from drawing you in.
Brian here: I have a service dog. I’ve helped others get service dogs. I’m at this very time talking to two individuals who are considering it. They are considering it because they know, for one, that the dog will get them back up off the couch and living again to some degree. And for the other, she routinely sees her attacker and wants to live life again. I’ll help them both. I think they can be put on a better path than they are currently on, with a dog. I can assure you that the dog is not a fashion accessory. It’s not a social conversation instigator but rather leaves you excluded from certain social events. It’s hard. Dogs fail. As their handler it feels like you failed. And when they pass, it’s the result of hundreds of dog hours, people hours, trainer hours and many thousands of dollars of donations. I received a donation for 200$ from an old lady at the Pentiction ANAVETS club a few years ago, which I of course gave straight to a dog placement foundation that deals with service dogs. This shit article attacks her too, not just me. It calls her foolish for spending money on some veterans fashion accessory.
Let’s focus on my point on the use by National Post of the veteran community to drive traffic to their media accounts: specially, targeting a vulnerable subset of those veterans, veterans with an all too visible symbol of their injury. The first time Brian took his PTSD Service dog, Sasha, out was extremely difficult. Now he was visibly broken. I have been enraged by the ignorance and rudeness he has faced with a smile when in public, I am far less polite and unlike Sasha, I bite. The damage done by the National Post’s cheap and dirty post is incalculable.
Opening Minds was an initiative of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to combat the damage being done by media outlets like the National Post in their stigmatizing portrayals of those fighting mental health issues. Studies were clear from the early 2000s, media had to be educated. A best practice guideline was produced to help journalists better report on mental health issues, known as “Mindset” with other 4,000 distributed across Canada. It would appear that Colby Cosh, Anne Marie Owens and the editing team at National Post never read.
The impact that they have had on the perception of PTSD Service dogs? That could be defeated by National Post printing a rebuttal, strongly worded and well researched (the antithesis of the illiterate vendetta piece Cosh wrote and Owens supported) explaining the science behind PTSD Service dogs: science that has been peer reviewed and minutely studied since 2002. But sadly, as of now the National Post refuses to stand by the oath of all journalists that speaks to integrity and education.
Brian here: If a politician said something this stupid, they’d be sent for a sensitivity class and left off the nomination papers next election. A team player would be fined. A business executive would be relieved of duties. A professor would find a pink slip. There is currently no recourse for reporters who publish unresearched, unreferenced and un-cited pieces. They can literally publish something they wrote on the toilet, and perhaps should have gone in it.
Brian Smith wrote a study which I have included below on the impact of Media on Mental Health Stigma. It is a great shame the findings in this study are not more widely understood by professionals in the media world in addition to reading the publication produced by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (Mindset).
Brian and I remain extremely angry with the damage that has been done to efforts painstakingly taken to reduce the Stigma around PTSD and PTSD Service dogs by the National Post’s ignorance. When I first started this journey I wished I could give some individuals a window into my world if only for a few minutes, knowing that they’d never be the same arrogant, pompous twat again but a humble, empathetic human would emerge who understood that there is a great deal going on behind silent, calm eyes and that they don’t get to judge us, or others. Sadly, that’s not an option.