Journalist Gaétan Girouard was a giant with feet of clay, those close to him believe. The documentary L’onde de choc recounts the trajectory of this star reporter on Quebec television in the 1990s and the deep inner fissures that led to his death, at just 33 years old.
Appearances were deceiving. Gaétan Girouard, star journalist at TVA, where he notably hosted J.E. live, was always impeccably dressed, affable when necessary and insistent in the face of a recalcitrant interviewee. He never stammered on the air, was a clear and precise communicator, recalls his ex-colleague Pierre Bruneau.
However, beneath his rebellious exterior, he had “little self-esteem,” said the former anchor, shortly after the screening of Shock Wave. Led by Jean-Philippe Dion, the documentary was presented a few days before Christmas in front of family members of the journalist who died 25 years ago and former journalist colleagues.
Even if he had to wipe away tears during the credits, the former anchor also said he was “happy” with the documentary. “We remember his extraordinary career, but it is above all his vulnerability that is in question,” he rightly emphasizes.
Jean-Philippe Dion had the idea for this documentary with three objectives in mind: to recall the meteoric journey of Gaétan Girouard, to reveal his fragilities and thus to prevent suicide. What he does by going to meet the family of the deceased, but also with the collaboration of several of his relatives, including his friend Gilles Dion and his former colleagues Pierre Bruneau, Alain Gravel, and of course Jocelyne Cazin.
It is amazing to see again on screen this elegant young man, apparently confident, capable of confronting a criminal biker, of interviewing a Warrior on the barricades during the Oka crisis and of bearing witness to the riot which followed the Stanley Cup victory in 1993 while being tossed around by an excited crowd.
His role that made the biggest impression was undoubtedly that of co-host of the investigative show J.E., with Jocelyne Cazin, where he had nothing more or less the role of a vigilante journalist. A role that came with enormous pressure, which he always masked behind a smile.
“He’s someone who spent his life helping others solve problems,” emphasizes Marie-Claude, “and with this documentary, it’s a bit as if he continued his mission to change things. »
Shock Wave does not approach the issue of suicide in a sensationalist manner. His objective is quite the opposite: to talk about it responsibly, to dissect what can fuel an invisible malaise and to talk about the impact it has on those around him, including his partner Nathalie and their two daughters.
Marie-Claude Girouard addresses the issue head-on in the film by affirming that suicide is, in her eyes, a selfish gesture. “I don’t know if that’s the right word,” she said, a few minutes after the screening. I’ve never been in that situation and I think that when you do something like that, you don’t think about the consequences.
“You think it’s going to make the people around you feel better, but it really doesn’t,” she continues. If someone had the choice between whether someone close to them commits suicide or not, the answer would be no. Perhaps selfish wasn’t the right word, but above all I wanted to illustrate that there are consequences for the people who stay. »
Jocelyne Cazin admits to feeling a lot of guilt after the death of this colleague to whom she was very close. She said to herself that if the people around Gaétan Girouard had shared their concerns, perhaps they could have helped him. She also deplores the fact that the doctor who diagnosed her friend with major depression did not alert anyone.
“Information needs to circulate more,” agrees Marc-André Dufour, psychologist specializing in suicide prevention. However, he recalls the importance of professional secrecy for doctors and therapists. Cases of acute suicidal crisis leave no room for interpretation, according to him. The problem lies when the professional does not judge the imminent risk of death.
It is still necessary that health professionals have the reflex to try to spread a safety net around the person in distress before they make an action rather than after, adds the specialist.
Marc-André Dufour emphasizes that men are consulting more and more and that seeking help is no longer as taboo as before. “There’s not less distress, but more people are talking about it,” he says. However, we must still insist that courage is not about facing your problems alone, but about being able to show yourself vulnerable and ask someone to hold your hand.