Sian Williams: “I help BBC journalists through trauma”

Former Breakfast host reveals she's studying psychology and acting as a "mentor" to reporters coming back from warzones

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Former BBC1 Breakfast host Sian Williams has revealed that she is studying for an MSc in psychology – in order to offer support to BBC reporters who are traumatised by reporting from warzones and natural disasters.

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In an interview for the new issue of Radio Times magazine, Williams said she is a “peer mentor” who counsels BBC colleagues when they return to the UK from stressful assignments overseas – a move prompted by her own reporting on the Pakistan earthquake of 2008.

“I help BBC journalists through trauma. A small team of us who have experienced traumatic environments help spot symptoms of trouble when people return from war zones or disaster areas. Post-traumatic stress disorder can take time to manifest itself. I can assess people and point them in the right direction, show them support,” she said.

Williams, who left Breakfast in March 2012 when it relocated from London to Salford, and now co-presents Saturday Live on Radio 4, went on: “The thing about news crews is they are very reluctant to seek help because it’s part of the job to come back from something quite traumatic and be ready to go out the following day on a different story. You have to cope because it’s your job. And I think journalists sometimes don’t get the chance to talk to somebody and say, ‘Is it right that I’m not sleeping?’ or ‘I’m drinking too much.’ I think it’s incredibly important.

“People need to be allowed to say that and who do they say it to? They’re not going to say it to their boss or anyone who’s going to offer them a job.”

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For the full interview – in which Williams also discusses meeting the Queen, whether she watches Breakfast in the mornings, and her new consumer affairs series Your Money, Their Tricks – see the new issue of Radio Times magazine, in shops now.