WARNING: This post deals with suicide and depression, and may be upsetting for some readers.
In the days after Charlotte Dawson’s death, many were quick to point blame at what – or who – caused Charlotte Dawson’s death.
Twitter trolls. A tragic past. Too much media attention, not enough.
Looking for simple answers and wanting to apportion blame are understandable impulses. It makes sense that people have been reaching and searching for a single reason.
But in the past few days, a more complex and realistic picture has emerged. Charlotte’s friends, and others who knew her, have started to speak out and share what they knew about Charlotte’s situation; her life and mental state at the time of her suicide. There have also been some insightful comments made about the context in which Charlotte live – and died.
And it’s clear that the cause of Charlotte’s death – or what drove her to it – is complex.
Over the weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew Hornery explained his decision to stop writing about Charlotte Dawson in his gossip columns.
Charlotte was his friend — and he wanted her to get better. Hornerey wrote:
I made a conscious decision over a year ago to stop writing about Charlotte Dawson.
It wasn’t that there was nothing to write about her, quite the contrary…
I was becoming increasingly concerned about the nature of the stories and Charlotte’s role in them…
The stories were becoming far more sinister and it was clear the more these stories were given life, the more Charlotte’s various demons seemed to feed off them. There was the battle with booze, the late-night phone calls, the high-profile boyfriend dramas, the death threats and toxic Twitter brawls. It was pretty obvious to me she was unravelling, and I did not want to compound the problem. I wanted her to get well.
From Hornery’s perspective, there were any number of factors that were slowly contributing to Charlotte’s unravelling. And he didn’t want to compound those issues, by writing about them.
Deborah Hill Cone, in the New Zealand Herald, added another piece to the puzzle. In a widely-read column last week, she points to ageing as a factor. Many who knew her have spoken this week about her work in TV and the fashion industry having dried up in the past few months. Hill Cone writes, in what is almost a letter to Charlotte Dawson:
It wasn’t just depression that claimed you.
I think you were also claimed by the fear of getting old. It is hard being 47. At the crisis of middle age, losing your sexual currency, becoming invisible. Psychologist Joseph Burgo says getting older inevitably involves a kind of narcissistic injury: as our bodies age and younger people find us less physically attractive, they seem to look right through us, as if we no longer exist.
Claire Harvey, in The Sunday Telegraph, also wrote about Charlotte Dawson’s death. Harvey mentions a variety of issues said to be affecting Charlotte including substance abuse, financial pressure and the most relevant factor: depression.
“I think it’s too simplistic to say that trolls drove her to her death. It would be comforting to have a villain we could all rail against.
But it would be dishonest. And all those other problems – money, work, drugs, alcohol – they affect a great many people who wouldn’t dream of killing themselves.
If misery were just about your circumstances, everyone in North Korea would have suicides a long time ago, along with everyone who was grievi9ng, everyone in terrible physical pain. The human mind doesn’t work like that.
Some people have the suicide thing inside them. Some of them succumb. That’s it. They don’t need our judgement. They certainly don’t need us to blame ourselves, or one another.”
Harvey concludes that, “Charlotte Dawson’s death wasn’t about any of us, or any of them. It was about Charlotte Dawson. She did it because she did it. She did it because she had something inside her, something bigger than her, and it wanted her to die.”
We can speculate, and analyse, and read thought-provoking pieces about the reasons Charlotte Dawson may have died. But we can never know for sure. All we can do is keep our eyes open for possible signs in those around us who we know to be struggling. And if Charlotte leaves any legacy, let’s hope it’s that.