Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Suicide in the News

There are a lot of news and blog articles around talking about the apparent suicide of the nurse who took the prank phone call made by two Australian DJs.  I wanted to get my views down as I have a lot of thoughts on this.  The story of Jacintha Saldanha is tragic; a 46 year old mother of two teenaged children apparently took her life out of the shame of breaching confidentiality when she answered a phone call made by two Australian DJs.

The most sympathy I feel is for Jacintha's family; her husband, children and other family members.  However, I also feel so sorry for the two Australian DJs themselves.  Mel Greig and Michael Christian phoned the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was a patient for hyperemesis gravidarum.  I have been reliably informed that hyperemesis gravidarum is not simply severe morning sickness as the media is saying, it is supposed to be more severe and long-lasting than even the worst case of morning sickness.  But that is not what I am debating here.  What I am debating is whether or not these Australian DJs should be criminalised the way they have been or hounded this intensely.

Obviously I don't know all the details, I am simply speculating and I could well be wrong on everything here.  This is just my opinion; I'm not saying that I am 100% right.

I believe that the two Australian DJs didn't design this whole prank call themselves.  Supposedly the prank was designed at a team meeting to cause a few giggles but I can't help wondering, was (perhaps unknowingly to the DJs) the actual intention to get the information?  Was the prank call like a sort of dummy run to see what sort of security was being used at the hospital so that they could get then the relevant information and ring again at a later time?  But when they actually got the information, they were shocked but glad to get the information and then released the audio under the guise of a prank call when really it was just a way of getting the information to broadcast it to get more listeners and ultimately more money?

I know this is conspiracy theory territory.  But I believe there is more to the Australian's story than just a prank call gone tragically wrong.  I really feel for the two DJs.  Maybe it was simply a prank call and I'm looking too much into things.  But the fact that not only the call was released but also the information about Kate's condition makes me think that the whole aim was to get the information.  Had the radio just broadcast the prank and not the confidential information I wouldn't be thinking along these lines.  But how would those who choose to broadcast this audio feel if it was information about their children or other members of their family or friends?  Kate Middleton is a human being, just like Mel Greig and Michael Christian are.  They all have the rights to confidential hospital treatment and although the two DJs breached her confidentiality by getting this information, their managers at the radio station who were the ones to broadcast the audio in its entirety could have ended the audio before the confidential information was released.  But no.  They didn't.  And this is why I feel so bad for the two DJs who despite making the call, weren't the ones who chose to broadcast it.

Mel Greig has been rumoured to be close to a breakdown.  And looking at the footage of her apologising to the news with tears streaming down her face makes me think that she may well be.  If I was Mel Greig right now, I would probably have made at least one attempt on my life.  She feels so guilty and has every right to.  But I believe she is genuine when she says how sorry she is.  Like I say, she is a human being with feelings and emotions herself.  How would you feel if someone killed themselves and you thought it was your fault?  I say give the two DJs a break and go after the bosses at the radio company who chose to broadcast the call.

Jacintha Saldanha is a tragic story but I also believe there is more to her suicide than just the shame of accidentally releasing confidential information.  I believe it was the metaphorical straw that broke the metaphorical camel's back.  I believe she was experiencing other forms of anxiety or depression and when she was the unfortunate answerer of the prank call, it was the last straw.  She snapped.  And being a nurse, she would have known how to end her life.  Nothing I say or do can bring her back so all I can hope for is that she did it in a way that didn't cause her any pain.

Her story has also got me thinking of other suicide stories that have been in the news recently.  Jacintha has been given respect and no criticism for ending her life.  Yet another person who recently committed suicide and made the news was given criticism and little respect.  I can't even find a detailed article about this person and although I think it was a man, I'm not certain.  This person made the news after being hit by a train and the Scottish Rail company tweeted a rather insensitive tweet about the delay.  I was listening to bits of the story on Radio 2 (yes I know, I'm getting old) and many commuters that day had been complaining about the suicide because it was causing them delays.  This is a person's life!  Yes OK commuters, you may be late to get home but this person is never going to go home again!  As for "Couldn't they have done it elsewhere?" yes, OK there are other methods of suicide but is this the first thing you think when someone has died?  What about "Why would nobody help them?"

The family and friends of this anonymous person are now grieving but society is shunning their loved one.  Their death was 'inconsiderate' and 'selfish' apparently.  Those who truly believe that obviously have no idea what suicidal thinking is like.  People do NOT commit suicide if there are other options available.  The times I have attempted suicide I have done it believing that I had no other options available.  Most attempts, I didn't want to die but felt that it was my only choice.  I believe the anonymous suicide in Scotland and Jacintha Saldanha also felt like they had no other choice.  Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  I have heard this phrase so many times that it is starting to lose its shock factor but it is SO true!  There IS help out there!

If you are struggling and the NHS won't help then there are so many charities who are willing to help!  SANE Charity, Mind, The Samaritans are just three and there will also be local charities nearby.  Outside the UK, there are charities that can help and doing a little bit of research will find them.  I tell you this because there ARE other choices rather than suicide.  Suicide is never the only choice for someone.

Over the summer, I found out that a woman I had been in hospital with two years previously committed suicide by being hit by a train.  I had remembered hearing at the time of a suicide at the train station but as I was in a different hospital at that moment in time, I didn't realise who had died.  It was two years later (this summer) that I accidentally stumbled across an article that named her.  I instantly felt guilty, even though I didn't really know her that well.  We had been in hospital together for four months but I had barely seen any of the other patients for those four months.  At the start of her four months, I had been doing really well and was out on leave most of the day and towards the end of her four months, I had stopped taking Clozapine and was physically very ill.  This meant I was barely able to leave my room at all and I don't even remember the day she was discharged.  However, when I read the article, I started thinking "Was there more I could have done for her?" "Had I seen her on that day and ignored her?" I don't think I had seen her since she was discharged but I started racking my brain, trying to think if I had seen her and if I had missed an opportunity to help.

She is possibly why I am so desperate to help others these days.  Even though I rationally know that I couldn't have stopped her from committing suicide, I can't help but wonder if maybe I could have done something slightly differently.  Maybe had I not spent so much time in my room in hospital and made an effort to speak to her?  I wish I could tell her that she had other options; I wish I had an opportunity to talk to her again to try and help in some way.  But it's too late for her.  It's too late for Jacintha and the anonymous suicide victim at the Scottish railway line.  However, if anyone reads this who is suicidal, it is NOT too late for you!  There are other options.  ALWAYS other options.  It doesn't matter how long things have been bad for.  There is always a second chance, a third chance, a 33249872348th chance.  No one is beyond help.

Please, don't give your family and friends grief for Christmas.


  1. "People do NOT commit suicide if there are other options available" - this is a very important point, and something people don't realize.

    I find it strange the way some sections of the media seem to be placing the blame for that nurse's death with the radio DJs. Obviously there must be a huge number of things going on in a person's life for somebody to do that.

    1. I agree. She had to have been going through something monumental at the time for her to have done what she did. Maybe we'll never know what she was going through but I don't think the radio DJs were solely to blame. Plus they weren't the ones who broadcast the audio from the phone call!