The Mum Network

What we should learn from Charlotte Dawson…..


If only Charlotte Dawson knew how much people thought of her.

The very platform that fed so many of Charlotte’s demons, Twitter, has finally become a nice place full of tributes and kindness to one of the only people who tried her utmost to put the bullies in their place. Wouldn’t it be lovely if she could see it now.

The people who Charlotte knew and socialized or worked with is a very extensive list and could go on for pages. Everyone from Alex Perry, Russell Crowe, Megan Gale, Roxy Jacenko, Tracy Grimshaw, Nat Bassingthwaite, Peter Morrissey, Kyle and Jackie O, Larry Emdur, Jonathon Moran, Melissa Hoyer and  Ben Fordham all paid tribute to her today by sharing stories and pictures of their time together. An even longer list of media people who were clearly in her inner circle, shared small details online about the Charlotte they knew (Click here to see Mrs Woog’s beautiful post). She clearly knew a lot of people and left a lasting impression on each of them. No one really has a bad word to say, nor should they.

Even though I didn’t know Charlotte personally, I met her a couple of times with work and she was always very funny, confident, honest and loud.  She knew she had a presence and she was excellent at playing the part.

A night owl myself, I often scroll through my Twitter feed when the TV is boring or if I can’t sleep. One night in 2012 after watching an incredible interview she did for Mamamia, I had an interaction with Charlotte on Twitter where she had implied that a pic of Lara Bingle was slutty and inappropriate. Not sensing the sarcasm or knowing her friendship with Bingle, I called her out on it because she had always been an advocate for anti-bullying and I felt there was some slight hypocrisy. She explained herself and her friendship with Bingle. I apologized. We were good after that and I admired her for responding directly to me. Not many people take the time to do that,. She was rare and I always adored her honesty and strength in championing worthy causes.

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Charlotte’s tweets regularly appeared in my newsfeed and I have to say, some nights were brutal. Charlotte had a habit of re-tweeting (re-posting)  tweets that were sent to her by trolls who take pleasure in writing THE MOST HORRIFIC THINGS to anyone who will bite (and even those who don’t bite). These people set up fake email accounts and take pleasure in being evil, there are many of them and they need to be stopped. Charlotte used to take them on by wanting to shame them by publicly outing them for what they were, complete arseholes. The night she posted “You Win x” to the trolls was the night of her first suicide attempt. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one of her 58,000+ Twitter followers that night who wanted to call the police directly and get them to her house. Thank God someone did.

Unfortunately yesterday it was too late and whatever her demons were, they took her from a world where she was loved by many.

With the dialogue and beautifully written memories of Charlotte being published today, I couldn’t help but wonder about the final message in all of this. Yes, we’re all shocked and saddened but we have so much to learn from Charlotte’s passing and we need to ensure we follow her lead as she was the biggest advocate for anti-bullying and in raising awareness for mental illness.

I understand that that people are today saying “if you’re worried about someone, talk to them” but I know a number of people suffering from depression from very severe to mild and each time I show concern or worry about them, the answer is “I’m fine”. When I’ve tried to reach out, they become darker and more withdrawn. When I go to a number of websites, they issue me with really helpful advice like

–       Look for signs of depression – YEP have done that
–       Listen to your friends experiences – Well, they won’t talk about it
–       Talk about what’s going on – They won’t
–       Seek Help  together – Nope, they won’t come with me

I was so deeply concerned about a friend of mine recently that I called Lifeline. I was THAT worried that I needed to talk to someone about how I help them ASAP. After being on hold for over half an hour I felt that my clogging up a phone line may put someone else in danger so I hung up but imagine if that were someone else, ½ an hour is a long time when your mind is screwing with you. The Big Guy used to volunteer for Lifeline, they rely on over 11,000 volunteers to keep the lines open. 11,000 people – that is an enormous number and an indication of how serious the issue of depression and anxiety has become in our society.

I was also amazed at how little practical advice on how you can help if you are worried about someone or if none of the above works. In my opinion we simply don’t offer enough support of a practical nature to those suffering mental illness nor is there ANY legislation that stops people from bullying online. The NSW Govt have rightly introduced a one punch law that inflicts a 20 year sentence on someone who causes death. The horrific behaviour of some people online cause the same tragic end. So, why can’t we introduce laws that sentence internet trolls to think twice before typing.

Therapy is also needed but it’s expensive or a longer wait than most can cope with. More money needs to be pumped into the cause, cure and treatment of depression so that those suffering aren’t just offered a couple of free sessions with a psychologist who is already up to their eyeballs in overbooked appointments.

There must be millions of people not suffering from mental illness who could spend months with a therapist and not touch the surface of their issues so those with mental illness need and deserve more than we as a society offer. We need to be able to offer long term free treatments, phone support, therapy and medication 24/7 to those in need.

I don’t know how to make that happen but for Charlotte’s sake, I’m hoping that somewhere, someone wakes up and finds a way.

Mr Abbott, over to you. Make a difference.

One comment

  1. La, your post would have made a difference in so many people’s lives. When I heard about Charlotte, I felt like we failed her. As a celebrity she tried so hard to stop online bullying. What could we have done more to support the cause? I’ve lost a number of friends to depression and even as the years pass by I still question myself for not noticing that there was a problem. I hope this tragedy has opened the eyes up of the people who can make a difference.

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