If you live in Australia you’ve no doubt heard the very sad news of the passing of TV personality Charlotte Dawson. Though no official has actually said it, the assumption is Ms Dawson committed suicide after what seemed to be a very long battle with depression. You’d also know the yucky story of the night of cyber bullying she experienced on Twitter a few years back. And if you didn’t before, the media saturation will ensure you certainly do now.
Of course, the pitchfork, pearl clutching hysteria that the media manages to always whip up has already started in regards to the cyber bullying issue. (Check your Facebook feed, you can’t miss it.) And whilst this issue needs to be out there and acknowledged and most importantly dealt with, it seems to be pushing the more pertinent issue to the background. That issue that it was depression, not idiot ‘trolls’ hiding behind a screen that killed her. I’m not saying it wasn’t a trigger. In fact I believe one of her biggest triggers probably was a complicated and confusing relationship with social media. On one hand, in order to stay relevant in a fickle industry such as hers, she needed to be constantly present online. On the other hand, it was clear she struggled with the fact that social media drew her closer to the so called trolls and their vicious idiocy. Exposure built her up, and tore her down in equal amounts it would seem. But it simply cannot have been the only stresser that led to this tragedy; there must have been a snowballing of triggers, and it will be interesting to see whether the media acknowledges this at all, or simply continues to draw people into the troll debate.
In a fortnight where mental health issues have led to the horrifying murder of a child and now the suicide of a well known person, the media should be wholly focusing their attention on the issue of why depression and mental health in general continue to be ignored both within our society in general and by government bodies. We have fantastic organisations such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline pushing their cause loud and clear, so why does depression and mental health still carry such a stigma? It seems to be everywhere and nowhere, all at once. In fact it seems we only hear about it when tragedies such as these occur. Is it still that people believe it not to be an illness, but something that needs to be gotten over and forgotten about? The old, pull up your socks and stop whinging about your first world problems defense. I struggle to understand how a government can immediately pass laws relating to street violence (as they should) but when asked about mental health and violence, respond by saying they cannot react to every tragic situation. This baffles and saddens me. Every election we are promised that mental health and the shortfalls in funding, education and support programs will be front and centre; and every time we are disappointed.
I’ve written about my personal battle with depression before. My triggers are generally sleep deprivation and stress. It’s always there, mostly managed; sometimes not. But I am lucky to have support, and the ability to seek out further appropriate support when needed. I am not now, nor will I ever be ashamed to admit I have this illness; I will not hide the fact I suffer from the black dog. I will not be shamed into ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t exist. It is a tragedy that Ms Dawson couldn’t continue to fight, to carry on her battle with this disease. I only hope this awful situation in someway leads to the spotlight being put back squarely on the issue of depression and mental health in our society. I sincerely hope the media uses their power to ensure this happens, choosing to help rather than sensationalism.
We can only hope.
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