What happens to a person’s identity when the person they used to be, no longer exists?
“I wasn’t on the frontline, I survived war. But I’ve sacrificed my life. It’s not easy to say because we have people who have lost their lives in combat. ‘They’re the heroes. I’ve got nothing to worry about’. But on the line is family, relationships, you tend to lose humanity. You lose all the things about what it is like to be human.”
“This place has shown me that I have some skill-sets that I can still use. It’s showed me how to be a human being. I have started looking forwards for the first time.”
“The day I started my course I was bawling my eyes out. ‘See’, I said to my son, ‘big boys do cry.'”
ABC journalist Kumi Taguchi set out to tell the story of a hospital in Melbourne with a unique set of patients: returned soldiers who are dealing with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
After dozens of emails and phone calls over the space of a year, Kumi found herself spending the best part of a fortnight being a fly-on-the-wall in the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. She spoke to clinicians and psychologists and spent time in Ward 17. She took part in an art therapy class, discovered the Kokoda gym and sat in a quiet chapel. And, she waited for patients to tell their stories.
Eventually, she spoke to six men aged between 29 and 50, who shared their nightmares and journeys with PTSD. What Kumi learned along the way was unexpected: that underlying this illness is a search for identity and meaning, and perhaps a re-think of what ‘sacrifice’ means in the context of war.
Kumi Taguchi’s work is an online piece, a medium she believes is appropriate for the intimate subject matter, and to preserve the privacy of those who were kind enough to share the most defining moments of their lives with her.
Kumi said, “I have always been moved by stories of loneliness and isolation, and inspired by courage. In my two weeks at Heidelberg, I saw all this in abundance. The loneliest of souls – once strong, brave men –broken in some way; and despite it all, the desire to fight for an unknown future. I went in with a blank notebook and a pen, and came out with a totally new understanding about what it means to put your life on the line.”
This unique and compelling ABC News long-form online feature captures the deeply personal perspectives from soldiers who share their fears and thoughts on re-engaging in a ‘new world’, steps to recovery and dealing with life, after the war.
‘The battle after the war’ will be launched on Friday, October 3 at abc.net.au/news.
Along with other media representatives, Kumi Taguchi is an Ambassador for the ABC’s Mental As… initiative, supporting Mental Health Week from October 5 – 12. www.abc.net.au/mentalas #mentalas
About Kumi Taguchi
Kumi Taguchi co-hosts ABC News 24’s evening news program with Scott Bevan. Kumi started at the ABC in 1997 at The 7.30 Report, where she answered phones and sorted faxes. From there, she spent time at Triple J, before working for deaf and hearing impaired at various networks. In 2004, Kumi moved to Hong Kong and worked for Star TV, Asia Television and NHK World. She was the editor of a weekly social affairs program, anchored daily news, and produced long-form current affairs features. In 2010, Kumi moved back to Sydney, working at both SBS and the ABC before settling at the ABC full-time with ABC News 24. A regular news presenter on ABC News 24, Kumi moved into the evening co-host role in March 2014. Kumi has also worked in ABC Radio Current Affairs and on the 7pm ABC News, as well as ABC Local Radio. Kumi plays the violin and is a keen runner and avid cricket fan. You can follow Kumi on Twitter at @kumitaguchi.