Veteran journalist Stan Grant has revealed how a lifetime of reporting on traumatic events and experiencing racism nearly drove him to take his own life.
In a keynote address to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in Sydney on Monday, the ABC’s international affairs analyst said ‘there were times when I would feel the urge to take my own life, coming in me like an irrepressible surging wave.
”Do it now. Jump now’. So powerful, that it would block out everything.
‘I remember once standing on the balcony in my hotel room when I was out doing a story… and walking up onto the balcony and standing there, with nothing to hold me, not caring whether I fell.’
In his speech, Grant shared his experience of facing racism as a young Aboriginal man, his constant exposure to negative news while reporting from the ground and his disappointment with the ABC.
Veteran journalist Stan Grant has revealed that a lifetime of reporting on traumatic events and experiencing firsthand racism nearly drove him to take his own life
The ABC’s international affairs analyst confessed he had once thought about jumping from the balcony of his room on the 15th floor of a hotel he was staying in
Grant said: ‘The years of reporting these stories, of dragging my history around with me, took an enormous toll.
‘How these things can fester and seep into us, like the frog in slowly boiling water. I wasn’t aware that I was boiling.
‘My wife saw this unfolding slowly and slowly, with each year that would pass…
‘More reporting war, more reporting horror, natural disasters, imbibing the stories of the suffering of others, and triggering the memories and histories that I had grown up on.’
He credited his wife and mental health services for bringing him out of the darkness and overcoming his suicidal thoughts.
‘Luckily my wife intervened,’ he said. ‘I got the treatment that I needed. I found the right people, got onto the right medication, I took the time out to deal with that.
‘I remember one day standing in that beautiful, golden winter light… knowing there was a healing in the country and in the place that I needed.’
Grant recalled his time growing up in a rural town in NSW and his experiences with racism as a young boy during the 1960s.
‘Australia was overwhelmingly white,’ he said. ‘To be someone like me, to be an indigenous person, was to be someone banished to the fringes and margins.
Grant opened up on his mental health struggles, his experiences of facing racism as a young Aboriginal man, his constant exposure to negative news while reporting from the ground, and growing disappointment with the ABC
Grant revealed his disappointment with how little had changed in Australia as he recalled his time growing up in a rural town in NSW and his experiences with racism as a young boy during the 1960s.
Veteran journalist Stan Grant rips into the ABC
Grant, who is a proud Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man, took aim at the ABC saying the national broadcaster had failed to become more inclusive.
‘Now I love the ABC and I’m proud to be there, but it has utterly failed,’ he said.
‘If I look at the programs on air now, yes there are a smattering of different faces, different colours, but the people who run it are white, the executive producers are overwhelmingly white..
‘Then there’s me. I know that by my very presence I am the exception. When we report Aboriginal issues we still do it through the lens of the other.’
‘I remember sitting in class and a boy sat next to me and put his arm next to mine. He said, ‘Why are you so black?’
‘It wasn’t, of course, the color of my skin, it was the color of his skin, that he was in fact referring to, because he was white. Everyone else in the class was white.’
Grant was no older than five when he lived through a crisis of identity: he was torn between his Aboriginal heritage and how white Australians expected him to behave.
His lack of stability was only made worse as he was regularly forced to move homes as his father took up different jobs around the country.
‘My father got another job, that was the pattern of our lives. Dad would get more work… working in sawmills,’ he said.
‘It meant by the time I had got to high school I had been to about 15 different schools.’
Grant, who is a proud Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man, then took aim at the ABC saying the national broadcaster had failed to become more inclusive
Grant was no older than five when he lived through a crisis of identity: he was torn between his Aboriginal heritage and how white Australians expected him to behave
Grant and his friends were pulled into a room by a principal who told the-then 15-year-old and his cohort it was better he leave school because he would ‘amount to nothing’.
Of the boys who did leave school, several of them spiraled into drug and alcohol abuse. Some were jailed and others died at a young age.
Grant revealed the racism endured into his adult years and ranged from blatant to more subtle forms.
The seasoned journalist has more than 30 years experience in radio and television and has interviewed some of the most influential and inspiring people in the world.
Nelson Mandela, Hillary Clinton and prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating have been among their guests.
Grant revealed the racism endured into his adult years and ranged from blatant to more subtle forms
Beneath the surface of his career was a dark underbelly that still stings for Grant to this day.
‘When I came into journalism there was no-one who looked like me,’ he said.
‘We were not presenting the news or current affairs, we weren’t foreign correspondents, we weren’t political correspondents.
‘There was no-one who looked like me. The highest form of praise when I came into journalism was to be called a white man. If you did something well, they would say, ‘Good on you. You’re a white man’.’
‘The only stories done about us, were about scandals or failure. We were somehow to blame for our own plight.’
Grant ended his speech on an optimistic note that change could be brought about by a common understanding of human respect.
The seasoned journalist has more than 30 years experience in radio and television and has interviewed some of the most influential and inspiring people in the world
‘I’ve spent my lifetime reporting on the afflicted, trying to look through the eyes of others, to see myself,’ Grant said.
‘Wherever I have gone I have taken my history with me. It has laid me low. It has brought me back to a country I sought to escape, because this is the only home I could ever truly have.
‘And all of you, are the only people I could ever truly call my own. We are here in this land, together, responsible to each other. It starts with an understanding that this is old land.’
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists hosted the 2022 Congress to build ‘stronger bridges, safer harbours’ and improve connection, inclusion and creativity.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 at any time of the day, seven days a week for anonymous support and guidance.