BBC war zone reporter opens up about PTSD in documentary

Fergal Keane opens up on PTSD in a BBC documentary. (BBC)
Fergal Keane opens up on PTSD in a BBC documentary. (BBC)

BBC news reporter Fergal Keane is set to open up on how he copes with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after working in war zones in a documentary on Monday night.

Fergal Keane: Living with PTSD sees the familiar journalist give a glimpse at what it is like to report on some of the most distressing and traumatic news stories.

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His career has seen him tell stories from conflicts in Belfast, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, but several years ago he publicly announced that he would not report from any more war zones because of the effect on his mental health and his family.

Admitting he had struggled with whether to leave Kyiv when it became clear that war was about to break out, Keane told the BBC he had decided to compromise by reporting from the relatively safer Lviv instead — something his friends still found difficult to understand.

Fergal Keane talks about his decision to leave war reporting behind. (BBC)
Fergal Keane talks about his decision to leave war reporting behind. (BBC)

He said: "It was during the making of my BBC documentary on PTSD that I began to seriously consider the addictive nature of war reporting in my own case.

"Yes, I was a journalist with a deep curiosity about the world and particularly how human beings behave in extreme situations.

"History and how it plays out in modern conflicts is also a passion of mine, and I have always felt that the work of witness is central to upholding human rights."

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Keane, who has reported on conflict for 30 years, added: "But there was a less healthy aspect to my choice of work.

"War repeated the nervous stress, and the powerful compulsion to prove I could survive, that I had experienced as a child growing up in a home fractured by the effects of my dad's alcoholism.

"In war zones I could prove I was no longer a scared child. I had a voice."

Fergal Keane has reported on conflict for 30 years. (BBC)
Fergal Keane has reported on conflict for 30 years. (BBC)

Monday night's BBC Two documentary sees Keane detail some of the most horrifying parts of his career that lead to him choosing not to report from wars any more and includes his recollections of how his childhood played into the problem.

He'll also meet other PTSD survivors and visit support groups to learn more about the condition.

Fergal Keane: Living with PTSD airs tonight (9 May) at 9pm on BBC Two.

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