Matthew Newton is variously described as ‘troubled’ and ‘controversial’. Media buzzwords that cut through the complexity of the case of a man who has twice beaten his female partners and stands accused of assaulting a taxi driver and now resisting arrest in the United States after allegedly refusing to leave a bar.
Is that the work of mental illness? All of it?
While none of us are privy to the specific details of the case, psychology experts like Dr Michael Carr-Gregg would ask the media to quit the over-bearing coverage. I had a chat with him about illness, fame and drawing a line between the two.
M: I wanted to talk to you about Matthew Newton because I think that your point is really interesting. Tell me what your concern is?
MCG: My concern is – I often put myself in the shoes of Bert and Patti. I’m getting up in the morning and opening a newspaper and there’s my son being basically demonised – by some sections of the media. Essentially I’m in pain, I’ve got a son who clearly has some very significant mental problems which, by all reports, is reticent to treatment and clearly subject to relapse. It’s a chronic ongoing problem and it’s not going to go away. What we do know is that the more pressure you put on him, the more likely he is to be pushed over the edge and this is what really frightens me.
I think that what we’ve got to be careful of is that he’s gone to the [United] States to get away from media. Putting the spotlight on him is only going to increase the pressure and it will in fact, I believe, compromise his attempt at recovery. My question to you is, as an experienced journo – is this in the public interest?
MCG: Is it really in the public interest? I don’t think it is.
M: I’m going to play devil’s advocate back to you and I’m going to say okay, he’s the son of famous people but he’s also famous in his own right in that he is an actor and whether you like it or not there is a degree of notoriety that comes with being an actor. He has chosen to participate in interviews subsequent to the incident with Rachel Taylor, and obviously he’s had ongoing issues – that’s clear – but he has chosen to address that. So by doing that do you then cement your illness and your behaviour and your level of fame in the public interest?
MCG: I would argue that in the interview he did with Tracy on ACA … the issue for me is that in that interview with Tracy he actually demonstrated just how unwell he was because he wasn’t entirely frank, he wasn’t entirely forthcoming, and in fact it’s what he didn’t say in that interview which is much more interesting for me as a clinician than what he did say. So I would hope the media would actually be able to process that and go ‘hmm, maybe he’s not okay, maybe putting the spotlight on him and inviting him to do interviews is counterproductive’, and I have to weigh up as a media person – do I just want the ratings or do I actually put this young man and his family’s wellbeing first?