by REBECCA SPARROW
I have no clever or impressive way to open this column. And nor should I.
Jacintha Saldanha is dead and – it’s fair to say – the news of the British nurse’s suicide in the wake of a meaningless radio prank – has broken all our hearts. In Australia we woke yesterday morning to the news and it made us shudder. The tragedy – that a woman potentially felt so humiliated by a inane prank phone call that she would take her life because of it – left us devastated. And speechless.
Well temporarily speechless, at least.
Because after the shock wore off, almost instantly the recriminations began.
We blamed the radio hosts for being so completely thoughtless and juvenile to do such a disrespectful prank in the first place.
We blamed the hospital for not having better protocols in place when it comes to access to the Royal family.
We blamed the radio station producers and management and even the network owners for airing a pre-recorded segment that had clearly gone too far (since the second nurse did end up giving away private details of the Duchess of Cambridge’s condition).
But I think all this finger pointing misses the point. As the blame shifts like fetid smoke, there is a bigger, more important lesson to be taken from Jacintha’s tragic death and it’s this: Nothing ruins your life forever.
And it’s a message – more than ever – we need to drill into our nieces and nephews, our children, the teens in our lives and frankly, ourselves.
It goes without saying that I don’t know Jacintha’s story. None of us do yet. Perhaps in time we might. Currently we do not know her mental health history (I am not suggesting for a moment that Jacintha was mentally ill), the degree of humiliation she felt from the stunt, whether her death was a cry for help or a determined attempt to take her life. It matters little. A husband has lost his wife. Two children have lost their mother. No amount of speculation is going to change the unbearably sad outcome.
But here’s what we do know, there is nothing any of us can do to protect ourselves from humiliation and embarrassment, from heartbreak and disappointment and devastation.
Would it be prudent for radio stations everywhere to rethink their culture of ‘Gotcha calls’ and stunts? Yes, of course. (Let’s face it, prank calls are purely designed to leave someone looking stupid. And today, thanks to social media, that humiliation can go global within minutes).
But banning prank calls is probably not the answer. Not really. The real answer is teaching ourselves, our children, our students, our nieces and nephews to be resilient. To build up our emotional armour.
Because the real truth is this: Life can be wonderful and joyous and thrilling but it can also be unspeakably awful at times. The third guarantee in life after death and taxes is that there will be at least one moment in your life when you don’t think you can possibly survive the pain you feel. There will be a time or times, when life feels inescapably bleak.
An email of complaint you thought was private gets forwarded by a company to hundreds or thousands of people. A wardrobe malfunction sees photos of your nipples making the rounds of the internet. You discover your long-term partner has been having an affair. Rumours snake through your workplace about a drunken night with your supervisor. You gain a reputation – deserved or not – for something you did at your university college O Week. You lose a loved one. An ex Facebooks naked photos of you in an act of revenge. You lose your job.