Sunday, 9 December 2012

Prank callers not to blame, say mental health experts
MENTAL health experts hold grave concerns for the radio presenters at the centre of the royal prank call controversy, urging the public not to blame them for the suspected suicide of the nurse who took the call.

Mel Greig and Michael Christian from Sydney's 2Day FM had to close their Twitter accounts on Saturday after angry social media users accused them of having "blood on their hands".
But leading psychiatrist and former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry called for calm, saying suicide was a complex issue that was unlikely to be caused by one individual factor.
"I feel sorry for them because they obviously had no intention of causing any harm. Blame is hardly ever useful," Professor McGorry said.

"Most people are in a state of mental ill health leading up to when they kill themselves and it would have needed more than just that trigger to actually bring that about.

"You could say that a stressful life event like this was a contributory cause - and maybe she wouldn't have killed herself at this point in time without that having happened - but it was likely that there were some other factors going on too."

Frank Quinlan, chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia, said there was a risk of compounding the tragedy by targeting the radio presenters.

"It's hard to imagine that the vitriol and hatred and anger that we're seeing in this case is going to result in anything positive," he said.

"What this case shows is we need to be having a conversation about suicide and about mental health in general and how we can better support people who may be vulnerable - that's really the only prospect we have of getting anything positive out of this. The message to all of us needs to be to take a moment to pause before we jump to accusations that could have a lasting effect."

Jeff Kennett, chairman of the national depression agency beyondblue, expressed his concern for the radio DJs, saying the call was meant as a "harmless prank" that was never intended to hurt anyone, and he hoped the Australian community would be understanding.

"This is going to have terrible ramifications in terms of the impact on people's lives and I hope that both Mel and Michael are strong ... We've got to be careful we don't become so politically correct that we deny ourselves the opportunity like now to extend to these two all the support we can to ensure that they come through this as strongly as possible."

Jaelea Skehan, acting director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, said it was too early to know all the facts in the case and caution was needed.

"We don't know whether the radio prank played into this woman's death because we don't know anything about her the circumstances of her life," she said.

"While it's obviously tragic for everyone concerned, her family, her colleagues and all who knew her, it's also tragic for the two people who have been named and shamed in association with it."
Ms Skehan has led the Mindframe committee on media guidelines on reporting suicide and mental health for the last decade.

"The kind of behaviour that people have been criticising the radio hosts for, they're now doing very similar types of behaviour back towards them with vitriol," she said.

"If people are arguing that public humiliation has been related to the death of this women then must one must also reflect that public humiliation directed towards those two people on the radio is not going to be helpful either."

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or Lifeline on 131 114, or visit

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