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STOP THE BLAME GAME

Amid the ugly baying for blood from the social media mob on a witchhunt over the tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha, a voice of reason is desperately needed.

While the radio industry goes down the track of a necessary review of standards and codes; while Scotland Yard follows its process of investigating the suspected suicide; while the hospital in question reviews its protocols; it’s important to remember that at the core of this terrible story is the issue of mental health.

Patrick McGorry, leading psychiatrist, former Australian of the Year – and always a voice of calm – has reminded us that suicide ...

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47 Comments

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Rosikeo

    Couldn’t agree more. Ridiculous to vilify those two very young broadcasters. However I can’t say the same for their radio station which has built its reputation and commercial income on offensive and mindless stunts. They should be held responsible, and the voluntary code of conduct they supposedly apply should become legally enforceable. Those phonecalls should never have gone to air without the agreement of those involved. Their claims to have called them 5 times without actually speaking to them shows that they
    knew this, yet went to air anyway. Reprehensible!

    • Reply December 11, 2012

      Suzlette

      Yes its more of the bullying British gutter press and those who are still locked in the middle ages busy with their tar and feathers ready for another witch hunt. Seem to be caught up in their eye for an eye mentality in the hope for more blood! Time to stop before its too late again…..

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Victoria

    Blaming the DJs’ is a bit like blaming an actor for a bad show. What’s appalling in all of this is that no-one at the Station has come forward to protect them, to speak out for them and to take responsibility. Personally, I don’t think the show has anything to defend itself against – prank calls have been around forever. People laugh at them which is why they’re popular. What I’d really like to know is what happened to the girl in the hospital after it was exposed. With the paranoia of a hospital threatened by Royal breach of privacy for their beloved Kate and worse, losing face as a trusted hospital (bearing the Royals’ name) and probably a healthy patronage (money) I’d say she got an absolute bollocking and was probably fired or had that threatened to her…on top of all the ridicule and humiliation. Its the hospital that needs looking into. How could they have a Royal staying under their roof and not have strict protocols in place?? This girl and the DJs’ are scapegoats. A tragedy with no-one taking responsibility.

    • Reply December 11, 2012

      Gabby

      You don’t think the Radio show has anything to defend itself for? What about, they didn’t get verbal permission to play the nurses voices? Their excuses were, we tried to ring five times but there was no answer, NOT GOOD ENOUGH, no answer, means no permission. No permission means they cannot play prank. No prank played and then that lovely wife, mother, nurse would still be alive today to spend Christmas with her family.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Lorelle

    Finally…. Some sensible and humanistic news delievered on this story. I can’t believe it has taken this long for someone to stand up and say that for a person to take their own life, there would need to be more than just one affecting factor. This woman obviously had other pressing issues which have contributed to her decision to take her own life. And how insensitive of people to put the blame on these two very young radio personalities. This kind of thing happens every day and whilst I don’t wish to “blame” anyone for such a tragedy, perhaps the hospital should take a closer look at just how such a call got through! Instead of blaming the individuals who made that call, look at the security processes of the Royal Family and the hospital. Im sure this is not the first time that a royal family member has stayed in this hospital and Im certain that it’s not the first time someone has tried to prank the hospital and speak to a royal family member so what went wrong on their end this time??? I guess human nature is to blame the first person that comes to mind but perhaps we should stop laying blame and realise that this tragedy could have been prevented if more systems were in place and accessible for people with ill mental health – worldwide – to prevent a person choosing to suicide!

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    RobynMaire

    I completely agree Lorelle. It is a very unfortunate situation yes, but the two DJ’s should not have to shoulder the burden.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Ann Maree

    Thank you, at last some grounded comments. To think that one incident would be the cause of someone taking their life is simplistic. Indeed, suicide is a complex mental health issue. Time to stop the punishment of these radio jocks and driving them towards mental health issues, they are being made scapegoats.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Sharyn

    The DJs are simply the face of the radio station. Prank calls are stupid and a waste of air time in my opinion. It was someone else’s decision to broadcast the call despite permission not being granted. Whoever that person is, should put their hand up instead of gutlessly letting the DJs bear the brunt of abuse and threats. Their lives are irrevocably changed too. What kind of employer sends their employees to the slaughter like this? My sincere condolences go to the Saldhana family. What an awful turn of events and now a family is left without a mum, without a wife. I can’t imagine the pain they are going through. How can they ever make sense of the contributing factors that led to her passing?

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Mark

    Scapegoats!? They deliberately and in a premeditated fashion, contacted an innocent person at thier place of work, for the express purpose of humiliating her publicly.
    They gave no thought to what might happen to the poor woman if thier prank succeded, they could have refused to participate in airing the call at anytime.
    Yet they didn’t and they are now facing the consequences for their choices. I personally hope they never, for a single day, forget the harm they they inflicted one someone they didn’t know, nor stop to consider, it might make more decent human beings out of them.

    • Reply December 11, 2012

      mary

      Thanks…PRANK CALLS=BULLYING???

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Alberta

    As part of the conversation about mental health shouldn’t we also be asking the question of exactly how a stunt based on making a fool of, and the humiliation of another person is funny.
    The whole stunt is such a gross invasion of privacy and so horribly tasteless.
    Can but wonder at the mental age of the legal people who approved it.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Suz

    Whatever happened to personal responsibility? The media professionals at the centre of this had an opportunity to say. ‘um. How is it funny to ring a hospital treating a sick woman.’. Pity they didnt exercise slightly more judgement at the start of this debacle.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Heather

    In the UK media reports accused the nurse of being mentally fragile to begin with. I wrote about this issue on my blog http://www.tastefortravel.com.au

    According to media reports, Ms Saldanha emigrated to Britain nine years ago, long enough to settle into the English way of life. She was a committed Catholic. The chances are that she had also faithfully retained the social and cultural expectations of her Indian upbringing. Women in conservative, traditional cultures are expected to be the moral guardians of the family and to guard their honour at all times, including not being the focus of gossip, scandal or innuendo. Suddenly, BAM, she’s headline news.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    MazT

    Good article, again, Hoopla. :-) Sad though to read comments in “support” are still looking to apportion blame. I would like to suggest that unless one has worked night shift in a hospital, or is completely familiar with the way things are done with this particular facility, the best opinion is one that isn’t spoken.

    Please put yourself in the nurses shoes: You take a call at 5.30 in the morning, towards the end of your shift. Fatigue is inevitable. Calls commonly come through from very powerful, influential, celebrity etc. people to speak with their equally celebrated people who are the patients, and at all hours. Seriously, if you were the nurse in this instance, would you question or refuse someone telling you she is the Queen? I dare say, the Queen has often called the hospital directly when one of the family are patients. She put the call through. At the other end, because it had come through, the ward nurse wouldn’t suspect anything either. They are nurses, a profession based on trust and integrity. When I first head about the call, my outrage was because of the impact it could have on the nurses who had been conned to inadvertently violate a corner stone of their practice. This was before the tragedy that then unfolded.

    This isn’t about humour and we should all be able to joke and all the other excuses I have heard thrown around this week. Good humour uplifts. Pranks of this genre are only funny when everyone is engaged, otherwise it is only ever bastardry. Thus it has always been. This time the tragedy has become known, which begs the question: how many others so humiliated have been traumatised with some level of damaging consequence that no one heard about?

    Without going into further suppositions, at the end of it all is a lesson for everyone of us. It is good that every media coverage lists Lifeline numbers etc. Sadly though, this intimates the problem is really with the nurse who couldn’t handle the violation.

    What is most important is the message for each and everyone of us looking on. That is: to be mindful. We _never_ know what is going on in someone else’s life. Don’t be fooled by veneer’s of humour, competence etc, etc. Unless we know the person really, really well, always treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect we would want extended to ourself, our parents, our family, the elders we admire etc. including with our joking.

    We all have a part in this.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Rose

    Here here. As someone who has a psychology degree and who has been suicidal on a number of occasions – I know it’s not a decision we as humans (whose main biological impulse is to live) can take lightly.

    If I had gone through with it on each of those times I was suicidal – would you blame the kids at school for excluding me – the teacher who teased me – my Dad for yelling at me – or the kid who threw a ball at my face? No. And neither would I.

    To assume that their actions alone could cause a person to commit suicide is utterly ridiculous.

    Everyone is throwing around words like ‘humiliation’ and ‘bullying’ etc. but seriously… take away your cloud of emotion and you’re left with two DJs excited about the Royal Baby who contacted the Hospital, put on fake voices, and were transferred by a Nurse. She just transferred the call. She didn’t give any information. She wasn’t laughed at or threatened.

    Correlation does not imply causation.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Liz

    Here. Here. They’re scapegoats. Where are the managers who said the call could go to air? Typical that the people who should be held accountable, are not.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Mary

    In that call to the hospital by the DJ’s, they never mentioned or identified the names of either nurse(they probably didn’t even know). They suprisingly got through, got a general account of how Kate was(nothing that anyone who knew why Kate was in the hospital was suprised to hear).That was the end of it. But the British Press apparently didn’t like that foreigners succeeded where they couldn’t and made it into a big deal and hounded down who the nurses were and kept the whole thing going. Is anyone holding them accountable. Are they the ones leading the backlash against the two DJ’s so their part goes unnoticed? If it had of been left at the end of the phone call as the DJ’s did, NONE of this would have hapened.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    anne louise

    Whilst it is counter productive to set about blaming, it is most important that we have the opportunity to communicate our views to organisations and institutions, and the people running them.
    Possibly there were other things which influenced Jacintha’s decision – she was human. That’s what people need to consider when they go about any act which is designed to humiliate another.
    The fact that she’d been caught out believing that the caller was the queen is likely not what affected Jacintha. I daresay the hospital heirarchy would have been less than gentle in their reaction to this incident, and both nurses would have been made to feel like dolts. There after, some of the other hospital staff would probably not have offered much in the way of support or consolation. Managing patient confidentiality is paramount. Both nurses would be left wondering if they would ever be able to work again as a result of this.
    I can see how the humiliation could have been so overwhelming that Jacintha took her life.
    So, whilst not laying blame, I think it’s time that “prank” and “joke” be relegated to the Mutually Exclusive folder. Give pranks back to the kiddies, where they belong.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    JennyMal

    Thank you for the article and Rose you added so perfectly to this article.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    mary

    These two inexperienced radio presenters appear to have been ‘put before the firing squad’ of UK/Aus. media & public. They appear very fragile. I initially thought that this ‘prank’ was broadcast live….but, later found out it was recorded, reviewed, and then they were told to broadcast it. No one could have foreseen the awful outcome. Where does the ‘duty of care’ from the management/producer/director/whomever?, that gave the OK for the ‘prank’ to go to air without the permission of the person that took the call. When is this person (or team), going to ‘out’ themselves & take some responsibility off these young people??? Tragedy all around. No winners here!!! Grieving family in the UK……two young people who will never forget ‘the prank that went wrong”? I hope all parties find some peace & support.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Carmel

    Does it really matter that there may have been other factors at play that resulted in suicide. The prank call, and its consequences, were the trigger. Did the two presenters consider that the staff of the hospital they involved would be disciplined? Did they consider that someone could lose their job over this? I suspect that either or both of these two possible outcomes did occur, and triggered the final act of suicide. Had there been no prank call, the loss of dignity, humiliation and other stresses experienced by the nurse involved would not have occurred. Actions have consequences. I do not think the two presenters should be legally charged. They will punish themselves enough. But this whole event should certainly be food for thought for other people in public life to review the effect their words may have.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Poeme04

    While I can understand the feelings of remorse and distress that both of these radio presenters are feeling, and I completely agree that no one could forsee the tragic events that followed this call, it is my strongly held belief that you do NOT EVER prank call a hospital or emergency service such as police, fire brigade or ambulance. These services all have extremely high levels of trust and integrity, not to mention holding peoples lives in their hands on a daily basis. Abusing that trust by making this type of call in the first place is just wrong. The two radio hosts involved here would have had ample opportunity prior to even making the call to sit back and say “No, prank calling a hospital is probably not appropriate”. Management and the legal team that gave this call the ok on the basis that it “did not break any laws” are also just as culpable for allowing the broadcast to be aired, but ultimately, regardless of the tragic outcome, abusing the trust of a health care professional is not clever, funny, or even remotely acceptable.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    Anyone whose life has been touched directly,or indirectly, by suicide, knows how hideous it is, particularly if you are “sensitive”..

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Hmmmmmm

    Where is their integrity? Someone has died and they just seemed worried about covering their arses and the arses of Ausstereo – they evaded questions and seemed to be answering insincerely.

    Tracy Grimshaw asked Mel who placed the call to her to tell her that Jacintha Saldahna had died and she said she didn’t know/remember – that is an out and out lie – she claimed the call to be ‘the worst’ call of her life – how could she not remember who was on the other end of the phone?

    I really wish they had just been honest.

    Pranks can go wrong, so of course this could have been foreseen – there have been many cases of public humiliation ending in tragic circumstances. This is a case of risk assessment – the risk was deemed acceptable.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Richard

    Don’t blame them? WTF? They are allegedly adults who prank called a hospital. They must have known what they were doing was stupid and wrong.
    They are 100% culpable, they made the call, they did the deed. Someone got hurt because of it. Just because they didn’t mean that, doesn’t remove their culpability. That’s the common sense of the situation.

    Prank calls are what kids do. Kids don’t understand that there are consequences to their actions. Adults are supposed to understand that. These two did not, they fail as being adults. Therefore, they should be punished. They should be sent to jail. This sort of behaviour has to be stopped, permanently.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    It may be hard to understand, for those who have not been through it, or are not mental health professionals, but the phenomenon of post-traumatic stress, and amnesia is real.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    lucille

    The big difference here is that the DJs are still alive, and they will have to live with this for the rest of their lives. They aren’t “kids”, they are adults, acting like kids, who were over the moon about the fact that this call went worldwide – wow the ratings will go through the roof. As someone personally involved with depression/suicide I hope they are punished for their immature and selfish act. Yeah, they made a mistake, but the jails are full of people who made mistakes, and refused to take responsibility for possible outcomes. Social media was full of comments about “there must have been something else going on”. Yes there was, but does that give anyone the right to embarrass someone who is fragile, and then have the mistake plastered all over the venomous British media. I have been in the position of having vicious lies being spread about me which resulted in the loss of my business, and yes, I did feel I couldn’t go on. Unless you have personally experienced depression, you have no idea how much it effects your mind. Let’s hope we don’t have to experience further “pranks” or radio bullying again.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    I imagine a lot of people would have been experiencing some shared glee when some antipodeans got through with temerity and bad impersonations~ and many of those same people will be feeling really bad now.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    lydia

    Yes, I agree that blame should not be the game.

    But, having said that, I do think that the two jerks should be thoroughly investigated and then, depending on their role, SACKED, as should everyone involved i.e. the lawyers who gave it the legal ‘all clear’; station management; EVERYONE… In criminal and torts law, you ‘take the victim as you find them’ (eggshell skull). So, a weakness or limitation that the victim possesses is not a defence to your actions e.g. if you hit them on the head and they die from an abnormally thin skull (but an ordinary person wouldn’t have died), then it’s your bad luck.

    And, has anyone actual proof that the poor victim was suffering from depression? Was suicidal prior to the incident? I haven’t seen any proof of that in any report, and it needs to be investigated.

    Asking that responsibility be taken for this dreadful incident is not ‘blaming’ the ‘victims’ (as the presenters are now trying to paint themselves). They could have hung up when it became clear that they were being taken seriously. As we used to say when I was a teenager: step up, or step off! Stop arguing the finer details and take responsibility for the effects of your stupid behaviour.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    Responsibility for stupid behaviour? First off, one has to identify one’s own stupid behaviour. Secondly, one has to identify one’s responsibility in the effects of one’s stupid behaviour on another person… this is incredibly complex… which is why codes, rules and laws assist us to govern our own behaviours……

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    As for the notion of an “egshell skull”~ who can predict such an outcome~ even as the radio station keeps insisting what happened was not “reasonably forseeable”. Get a grip on what may be the outcome~radio stations~ we are no longer dealing with “the man on the Clapham omnibus”~ as a “reasonable man”. When last I was in England~ he was black and living in my suburb. Get a grip. People who are working take their identity from their work. People who are not working have to undergo an identity adjustment~ given how powerful the notion of a work identity is~ let alone the income such an identity brings in for immediate and extended familiy.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    I meant “egg shell” but it might just have well have been all the e.g(s) that become trouble, at home and abroad~ otherwise referred to as “emblematic”…….

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Rhodd

    So this is a mental health problem – says who??? We have an Indian migrant who is reportedly a loving mother, hard worker, respected at the hospital where she works. She would be totally unfamiliar with the Aussie accent and totally unsuspecting. So she is then humiliated by a world wide audience, probably ticked off by her peers and hospital management. So have you been in her boots? Come on!! Get real!! Some people get upset if defriended on facebook.

    Some of us know how to kick ass but the rest of us are too polite. Don’t judge others by your own standards.

    This radio station is looking for an out. It’s behaviour was totally indefensible from any and every point of view that I can think of. There is no one at blame here but the management of this radio station and they should have their license suspended. They are scum.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Melissa

    Ro, laws and regulations may help rein in harmful bevaviour and indeed the may be useful for setting a standard, however each person should aslo be guided by their own moral compass. I doubt that either of these presenters would have appreciated being on the receiving end of the humiliation ad shame that they caused. Sure, in the wake of this tragedy, the regulations should be carefully examined, but it’s important also that people develop their own sense of what is wrong and what is right. As several people said above what’s so funny about causing another person embarassment…. says a lot also about people who listen to this sort of infantile behaviour and are entertained by it.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Rhoda

    The core of this issue is mental health?? You have got to be joking. The core of this issue is the harassment of two nurses on duty in a hospital – who were publicly humiliated and probably ticked off by their peers as well as management.

    Management of this station are the same scumbags who rang an elderly woman advertising for a lost dog and told her they had killed it. Just for a laugh. Call it a prank or whatever you like but it was a low act. Did anyone follow this up to see how the elderly woman got on afterwards. I bet not. They wouldn’t care unless it was going to impact on their bottom line. Like this poor woman’s suicide.

    They have no morals, no conscience, no thought of consequence. They are scumbags and their broadcasting license should be revoked. Enough is enough.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    To be explicit~ my own father’s threat of suicide when I was about 15+ years old. Then, a client hung himself successfully after a period of involuntary hospitilisation~ and a former work colleague killed himself just before the opening of an immense inquiry.Too much.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    Karen Halabi

    No commentator here, except Heather Tyler (http://www.tastefortravel.com.au/blog/11144/cultural-clue-to-australian-radio-phone-prank-victims-death/ ) has grasped that there need not have been “other” reasons. This incident brought, in Mrs Saldhana’s eyes, incredible shame on her and her whole family and she was responsible for losing “face”. You need to have travelled and lived in other cultures to grasp this. Otherwise you are just analysing it from a narrow western cultural perspective. Here in Australia, it’s Ok for everyone to be debauched, wear skimpy clothing, utter profanities, get drunk, heap abuse on people, do things at other people’s expense and play idiotic pranks. No I hear you say its not, but I beg to differ, it is – it’s accepted as part of our right to do what we want. There (in Bangladesh and much of the Eastern and Middle Eastern world) it’s clearly not. In some of these countries, and I stress this is amongst those who still live a very traditional life, men kill women – even their children- who bring shame on their families. These are called honour killings. Why is it such a stretch to believe that this woman would not have suffered terrible guilt and shame and embarressment due to this and died at her own hands? Believe me, there was “nothing else” going on.

    • Reply December 12, 2012

      ameli

      Yes, and I am British and know only too well how tradition and the cultivating of a cloistered life for the royals bares down on the people who work for the establishment. I wonder what was said to her. And I feel for her family and the young people who’s lives have been sullied. This is after all about the protection of the royals when we are not all royalists.

  • Reply December 11, 2012

    ro.watson

    I feel for those who have experienced threats and acts of suicide. My Dad threatened suicide when I was 15+,my client killed himself after a period of involuntary hospitilisation and a former colleague killed himself on the cusp of an immense inquiry…Very sorry business.

    • Reply December 12, 2012

      ameli

      Must be tough.

  • Reply December 13, 2012

    Sere

    This is also the result of the fact that the ‘Windsor family’ are placed up there next to God by some people in this society, when they are just human beings EQUAL to all the rest of us. I would never curtsy or bow in that way to anyone.

  • Reply December 13, 2012

    Sere

    Also the media had better leave these DJs alone before someone else feels like ending their life.

  • Reply December 13, 2012

    Rhoda

    I have every sympathy for the DJs – they are young and were led by the nose. It was a silly thing to do but we all do silly things. They were played for suckers by their management. Simple as that.

    So the management will give some money to the family to compensate them for their loss. Big deal. I am interested to know whether laws have been breached and what is going to be done about this sort of behaviour so it doesn’t happen again.

  • Reply December 15, 2012

    Hugh

    There is a lot of absolutism going on here. Though no one could have anticipated such a tragic outcome, the fact is the DJ’s and the station revelled in the reaction to their call, and subsequent airing (without permission of the the people whose voice is aired).
    You can’t expunge the terrible consequence of these actions, and however unintended, before the tragedy a heck of a lot of people (me included) thought it was a disgraceful invasion of privacy, not funny and wrong.

  • Reply December 16, 2012

    ro.watson

    Your psych. expert suggests suicide is often, but not always,preceded by a mental health illness. We are sensitive, vulnerable and complex beings and our interactions with others,or our “circumstances”, can carry unintended consequences…

  • Reply December 16, 2012

    ro.watson

    I know this may a big leap for some people~ but there is a distinction to be made between law and so-called morals~ the latter of which is often informed by one’s own rational and/or irrational subjectivity as reflected here. For example~ I think it is wrong to lock-up asylum seekers seeking to have their refugee status recognised. I think it is wrong for journalists to record and broadcast information without the knowledge of the person being recorded~even if those people who are recorded are in another country.
    And on the subject of mental illness or a disorder~ things are improving~around how the general population places stigma-but institutions like police, hospitals and staff, in say W.A can detain you if you are doing damage to your reputation. And der~ once you have a record of a mental illness or a mental disorder~ well~ there is a sinking in your credibility…..despite the best efforts of yourself and beyond blue etc…..

  • Reply December 16, 2012

    ro.watson

    Melissa~ I do not mind admitting my perceived “moral compass” has been off sometimes when I have been bullied and isolated~and sticking up for what I felt/thought was “right”. Also known as “emotional binging” in the wee small hours. Anyway. Off and on topic~words and guns. Whatever has happened to me and mine, I still feel a certain gut instinct around something is not right here~ And this is challenging and frightening because of what some individuals will do when they feel they have “right on their side” and guns/tools/law. Horrendous loss in singular and multiple forms evidenced in Connecticut. The one good thing John Howard did in Australia that made a huge difference~ was banning semi-automatic rifles~now ban semi-automatic hand guns too in Australia.I really hope the U.S gets it is imperative to stop the use of automatic and semi-automatic rifles and handguns, whether or not, the person pulling the trigger has a certificate in sanity. My morals say allowing this is wrong,and will only lead to harm.

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