Fergal Keane: who is BBC newsreader living with PTSD?

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Fergal Keane stepped down from his role as BBC conflict reporter in January 2020

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Keane developed PTSD after covering the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, he will share his story with PTSD in his documentary Living with PTSD, which will air on BBC Two on May 9th at 9pm.

Here’s everything you need to know about Fergal Keane and where he reported from.

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Who is Fergal Keane?

Fergal Keane reporting from Ukraine in 2016 (Image: BBC/State of Grace Films)

Fergal Keane is a 61 year old award winning journalist from Ireland.

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Keane is the BBC’s foreign correspondent and has covered conflicts up until 2020.

He had previously worked for Irish broadcaster RTE and for the BBC as a Northern Ireland correspondent.

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He has covered global unrest, including South African apartheid and the Rwandan genocide.

In 1997 he was awarded an OBE for his work in journalism.

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Keane resigned from his role as conflict reporter in January 2020 after announcing he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2008.

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Week, his documentary Living with PTSD will air on BBC Two on May 9th at 9pm.

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What happened to Fergal Keane?

Keane was diagnosed with PTSD in 2008 after developing it while covering the Ruwa Genocide.

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He left his role as conflict correspondent for the BBC in January 2020.

In February 2021 he spoke about his experiences in a BBC documentary for Horizon.

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In a statement about the film, Keane said: “I know that for so many people, PTSD is a silent agony. It shouldn’t be like that. I am making this film because I truly believe we need to talk about what PTSD is like, where it came from and how we can deal with it.”

Keane also wrote about his experience with PTSD for BBC News, stating that the combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressants has helped ease his symptoms since his diagnosis.

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What is PTSD?

The NHS describes PTSD as: “an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.”

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Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • nightmares and flashbacks
  • Repetitive and distressing images or sensations
  • Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, or tremors
  • depression
  • avoidance
  • irritability
  • angry outbursts
  • sleep problems
  • difficulty concentrating

Suggested treatments range from talk therapies like CBT to medications, including antidepressants.

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Where did he report from?

Keane has covered conflicts from countries around the world including Northern Ireland, South Africa, Rwanda, Lebanon, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

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Some of the places Keane reported are:

Keane was the BBC Africa correspondent during the Rwandan genocide.

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He reported on the atrocities committed by the Hutu rebels from the state capital, Kigali, against the Tutsis.

An estimated 800,000 people were killed during the genocide.

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It was this conflict that Keane said he suffered from PTSD.

Keane covered the 2003 invasion of Iraq from his capital, Baghdad.

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Belfast, Northern Ireland

Keane’s first job for the BBC was as the Northern Ireland correspondent, covering the riots in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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In January 2021 he spoke to the Irish News about his PTSD diagnosis and wondered if it actually started in Belfast.

Keane said: “I think it started in Belfast in the 1980s, but as I come to Rwanda it gets a lot worse.”

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He continued, “We saw things there that no one could have prepared us for.”

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