Friday, August 22, 2014

Media Responsibility & The Failure of Mental Healthcare

Content Warning: discussion of death, suicide, depression, mental health issues, including my own struggles in case you're someone I know in real life


During the last Easter break this year, my former jewellery tutor, Rowena Golton died, I was beyond shocked as I had seen her less than a fortnight earlier. I knew she was depressed and had been out of sorts for quite a while, so naturally you wonder how someone so young died, but I thought it didn't matter exactly how we lost her, but that we honoured her memory & her life. 

Then I saw a Daily Mail article on my facebook feed that shocked me to my core, the headline of said article revealed exactly the method she used to kill herself. I was paralysed, but I read the article, which described in further detail this wonderful, bright, giving woman who put me on my path as a creative and how she died.

As my shock began to fade two things struck me:

Is it responsible for the media to report suicides in such graphic detail?

When the news of Robin Williams death broke it was less than a day before I heard how he had killed himself in such detail that it made me feel sick and dirty for knowing something so private. I didn't really consider the possible fallout of such widely spread knowledge until reading of Rowena's death. As someone who has been suicidal and suffers from suicidal ideation (thankfully far more under control as of late) it struck me that a suicidal or fragile person reading about details such as these could influence someone to copy the methods. I made a brief post on facebook to this effect and lovely Kathryn pointed out that the Samaritans' media guidlines for reporting suicide have facts that back up this thought. This aspect of the news has been examined far better than I could ever do here by Mary Hamilton, "Reporting Robin Williams’ suicide: how not to kill your readers".

Sensationalist journalism surrounds us, we can't move for reports about tragedies and drama, but in this case it could be resulting in further deaths and this sickens me.

How could the mental health services in this country fail so badly?

I'm sure the majority of people reading this who have tried to get help for mental health problems know the fear and anxiety when you get told how long you will have to wait. When I first decided I couldn't go on without help I was told 3-6 months was the average wait and I was not considered a priority because I didn't reveal my suicidal ideation to my GP, so it was likely to be on the longer side. Thankfully as my Dad was a doctor so I had health insurance, which meant I could see someone privately a lot quicker. This isn't an option for everyone.

The biggest thing I took from the article on Rowena's death is that the mental health services in this country failed her, sending her home when she needed help most of all. She couldn't wait months, she needed help and tried again and again to get it. I think her family are very brave for talking about this and pointing out the inadequacies of the NHS in this department.

BUT, I also think this shouldn't put anyone off asking for help, the healthcare system is lacking, but if you cannot cope and you need to talk to someone please go to your doctor. Don't suffer in silence. I hope this isn't too contradictory, but I don't want the fact that people were let down to stop people asking for treatment. I know a few people who would not be here today without therapy, medication and doctors.

Depression and suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone, whatever their circumstances and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. If you're suffering, I'm sending you all the love in the world, but please talk to someone, be it a friend, the Samaritans or a doctor, don't keep it all bottled inside.


Mental Health:


0300 123 3393


08457 90 90 90


Write:  Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK,
            PO Box 90 90,
            FK8 2SA
Hearing Voices Network

0114 271 8210


0845 767 8000

Papyrus: Preventing young suicide

0800 068 4141

For people in Northern Ireland

0808 808 8000


No Panic

0808 808 0545

National Self Harm Network

0800 622 6000


01708 765200

(Confidential emotional support for Children, Young People and Adults. Also keeps details of agencies, support groups and counsellors throughout the UK)


National Alcohol Hotline

0800 917 8282

NACOA (National Association for Children of Alcoholics)

0800 358 3456

Talk To Frank (Drug information & advice) (ENGLAND)

0800 77 66 00

Know The Score (Drug information & advice) (SCOTLAND) 

0800 587 587 9

Dan 24/7 (Drug information & advice) (WALES)

0808 808 2234
Or text DAN to: 81066

Addiction NI (Drug information & advice) (Northern Ireland)

02890 664434



08000 50 20 20

London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard

0207 837 7324



0800 1111

Age UK Advice Line
0800 169 6565

The Silver Line (Free information, friendship and advice to older people.)

0800 4 70 80 90



0808 2000 247

Rape and Abuse Line
0808 8000 123 (Answered by Female Support Workers) 
0808 8000 122 (Answered by Male Support Workers)

Eating Disorders:

Beat Eating Disorders

Helpline: 0845 634 1414

Youthline: 0845 634 7650

Housing and Homelessness:

0808 800 4444


Cruse Bereavement Care

Child Death Hepline

0800 282 986

If there are any other resources, that you would recommend please comment and I will add them to the list. Hope you're all safe.