RTÉ Documentary Wins International Epilepsy Journalism Award

25 April 2012: The RTÉ television documentary "Life With Epilepsy" has won the international 2011 Excellence in Epilepsy Journalism Award. It competed with almost 50 entries from 24 countries internationally.

The programme featured Brainwave members Miriad Kavanagh and Aaron Maher and focued on their personal experiences of living with epilepsy. The programme was produced by RTÉ's Birthe Tonseth.

The award is made annually by the International Bureau for Epilepsy and UCB across print, broadcast and online categories. It aims to raise awareness about epilepsy across the globe. It recognises journalists who have excelled in reporting compelling and informed stories that engage the audience on what is an often misunderstood condition.

Speaking about "Life With Epilepsy", award judge Robert Cole, from the Epilepsy Association of South Australia and the Northern Territory, commented that "this programme looked at the lives of three people with different types of epilepsy, in an accessible and uplifting way through their personal stories. The stories reference various challenges such as the symptoms, common problems, stigma and discrimination, but also the hopes, dreams and achievements of people living with epilepsy. The entry was well researched and a worthy winner."

Mike Glynn, President of IBE and CEO of Brainwave noted:"The importance of accurate, insightful journalism across the globe is important for the epilepsy community, who often face deep-seated stigma and misconceptions about the reality of the condition. Our hope is that, over time, we can help to encourage more reporting that begins to break down these barriers to understanding and acceptance for many people living with epilepsy across the world."

Birthe Tonseth, originally from Norway, has been a television producer with RTÉ since 2001. She worked in RTÉ's Documentary Unit from 2008 until 2011, producing several factual television series and programmes.

RTÉ's health series "Life With....." featured people coping with common medical conditions such as leukaemia, epilepsy, arthritis, autism, Crohn's and asthma. It demonstrates how families and young people from across the country live full lives - despite the challenges of these illnesses. 40,000 people in Ireland have some form of epilepsy. Medication works in most cases but more than 10,000 people struggle to get their seizures under control.

17-year-old Aaron Maher from Crumlin in Dublin has frequent tonic colonic seizures. His goal in life is to become a paramedic but he will only fulfil his dream if he can get his epilepsy under control.

30-year-old Miriad Kavanagh from Wicklow had daily seizures for over 25 years. She decided in 2007 to have life changing brain surgery. Miriad has now been seizure free for four years. This has enabled her to learn to drive, thrive at work and even start riding lessons.