Suicide is my greatest fear. Not for myself, but for the ones I hold closest. To feel helpless while they are in pain is a thought that is literally too much to bear. I grew up with my parents telling me, every time I found myself in adversity, that there is no problem too big that we couldn’t solve together – and they have continually proven this to be true.
Almost three years ago, suicide touched my inner circle and for the first time, I watched those closest to me struck with the most unimaginable pain. While I’ve had to deal with death first-hand since primary school when I began to say goodbye to my Grandparents, dealing with the grief that came with suicide was something I could have never anticipated nor prepared myself for.
Death is difficult to deal with in any capacity, however when it is the loss of someone with so much life still to live, it hits you like a heavy blow to the chest and takes your breath away like nothing else. Your outlook is altered forever and you never quite get all your breath back – or at least, I still haven’t. It’s as if you’re on tenterhooks, indefinitely waiting, and praying that it’s not any of your loved ones next.
Life has been different ever since. I have an increased consciousness when it comes to how I communicate with those around me. It’s as if my empathy dial has been turned all the way up, and is now unable to retract. I have asserted myself as the person that those closest to me come to when they need advice or need to talk. I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing over whether this characteristic is as much a fault as it is a strength because perhaps I neglect my own mental health in the process of trying to preserve that of those around me? I have this incessant need to nurture, to take my loved ones under my wing and have them understand what I was taught – that no problem is too big to solve.
It simply isn’t enough when we constantly reiterate the idea that when your mental health is under strain, you have to talk. We need to focus on creating that environment so that when people are ready to take that step and let people in, they know they’re being listened to. I’ve had my own struggles that I’ve never spoken to anyone about and to be honest, I don’t know that I ever will. What got me through though, was knowing that I had all the right people around me to confide in, if I ever felt ready and able to do that.
What happened to Caroline Flack is absolutely devastating and left me speechless when the news first began to circulate on social media. As an onlooker you begin to search for reasons why. Why would someone who appeared so positive and put-together in the public eye ever even contemplate suicide? How could her happy façade be hiding such a crumbling soul? One aspect in particular of the situation has left me at a loss for words - the relationship between celebrity and privacy within the British tabloid press.
Navigating modern life in the era of social media is difficult for the best of us. The four walls of our homes used to protect us from the negativity beyond its parameters, but now, we invite people behind closed doors whether literally, through our obsession with image sharing, or figuratively, by allowing the judgement and opinions of those we don’t know to permeate our minds. Social media has created an online paradox where we are all capable of instantaneously spewing whatever’s on our minds, forgetting our unconscionable social commentary is being delivered to real people with real feelings, operating under the veil of ‘celebrity’.
I find the idea of invasion of privacy being ‘part and parcel’ of celebrity culture defended by the concept of public interest, troubling. Is it in the public interest to berate Meghan Markle for wearing a one shoulder dress? Is it in the public interest to shame Katie Price with unsolicited images of the inside of her home? Is it in the public interest to consistently label Caroline Flack a cougar and publish details about her love life?
No is the answer to all three of the above questions, and if you think any differently, you need to give your head a wobble. The UK tabloid press has an obsession with female celebrities and ripping them to shreds based on aspects of what any normal person can identify as their private lives. Jameela Jamil, Stephanie Davis, Rebekah Vardy… even going back to Princess Diana, to name a few. It’s a vicious cycle of the publishing of ‘non-news’ by the tabloid press, who lack any sense of accountability and constantly hold women to a different standard than they do men.
Now, I will never be one to make excuses for those who abuse others and Caroline Flack is no different – when I heard the news of the incident with her boyfriend, I was absolutely appalled. Hundreds of incidents of domestic abuse targeted at men go unreported every year because of the stigma and shame attached and make no mistake of my opinions here, female perpetrators should be charged and treated as seriously as society treats male abusers.
Of course though, she did not deserve to die. In situations like this, we could all use the reminder that good people can make bad choices and I find it so incredibly difficult to witness how the tabloid newspapers vilified her to the point of no return, with nothing more than hear-say and gossip. Let me for a moment remind you of last June when the police were called to Boris Johnson’s London home, after allegations of an altercation between him and his girlfriend were reported by a concerned neighbour. Repercussions for Boris? None. He went on to be promoted to hold to highest job in office.
Should there not be more protections in place for the release of information to do with an ongoing court case? I believe so. Speculative, sensationalism published by the tabloid press should be regulated effectively. It is these types of articles that fuel heightened emotions amongst the general public which sparks them to impulsively pass judgement, write comments, and send tweets, and in Caroline Flack’s case it was fatal. It’s a dangerously common misconception that the majority of those reading these articles are media literate enough to decipher for themselves what is fact and what is fiction, what is exaggerated and what is not. They are not. And in assuming this, we put the onus on readers to interpret for themselves what is correct and set a dangerous precedent that the tabloids can hound whoever they like and write whatever they like because we have the ability to pull the article apart and find the hidden truths.
There was also an article circulating the day of her appearance in court about the appropriateness of her outfit… how can that be justified as relevant to the public interest? What followed was a social media pile-on, where people were rising from the corners of Twitter to put forth their unwarranted opinions regarding Caroline Flack's court attire and there utter disapproval of such.
It breaks my heart that it’s too late to help Caroline. But it’s not too late to prevent this from happening again. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for celebrities to appreciate the press when it comes to promoting their work and highlighting both the good and the bad of their careers, while also expecting them to take a back seat and stop reporting on their private lives.
How many more individuals in the public eye are going to be driven to suicide before the country takes a stand? STOP FUNDING THE TABLOID PRESS. You are behind the times if you’re still reading the likes of The S** or The Daily Mail. Have some self-respect for your own intelligence and read from reputable sources.
To end this blog post, I want to step away from the idea of celebrity and talk one-on-one with you. It is so normal to struggle. It’s so normal to feel like life is getting on top of you. It is so normal to feel like you want to keep yourself to yourself and get through the hard times in your own way. That’s fine. Just never let yourself forget that the clouds do pass. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we’re feeling that way is to go to bed and see if things will be better in the morning. Take it from someone who knows… they will be.