Charlotte Dawson - media failed its duty of care
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. For years she had been a great source of mostly harmless stories that document Sydney's rich human tapestry.
No, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the nature of the stories and Charlotte's role in them. They were more troubling than some of the classic Charlotte yarns I had reported, like having an inflatable sex doll blow off her 11th floor apartment, only to land in the grounds of a very exclusive Sydney girls school next door which resulted in Charlotte plastering a missing person poster around the school gates.
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.
Sadly, it was a decision which cost us our friendship, having regularly played wingman to each other at the many events where I bumped into her in the past decade.
The last story I wrote about Charlotte was when she had opted to check out of a psychiatric emergency unit - temporarily - just hours after being wheeled in by paramedics who went to her home after an apparent overdose, when she tweeted an image of her hand filled with pills. She had attempted suicide after yet another storm on Twitter. It was not the first time this funny, effervescent, generous but deeply unsettled woman had tried to take her own life.
It was an awful story and galvanised many of us to shine the light on social media trolls. But that empathy turned to gob-smacking disbelief when I discovered she had negotiated to do an exclusive story with 60 Minutes barely hours after being wheeled into hospital. Sure, I'm no mental health expert, nor have I been in that situation, but I, like many of us, have had some experience with people close to us who have been through depression, had breakdowns and tragically taken their own lives.
I believed the 60 Minutes deal was inappropriate and far too premature. I still do. I questioned her management agency at the time, Chic Management, informing them it was clear she was not in a good place. Her agent told me Charlotte had assured her she was fine to do the interview, to which I responded: ''Absolutely ridiculous.''
Months later the agency cut Charlotte loose, claiming it was no longer able to represent her, due to her ongoing controversies despite their best advice. Charlotte shared the termination letter on social media, regurgitated by an ever-hungry media machine - except me.
When her contract with Foxtel was being renegotiated, wrongly believing she was about to be dumped, she decided to announce she was quitting the show, Australia's Next Top Model.
Management from Chic and Foxtel were involved in organising Friday's memorial, both entities deeply affected by her death.
With so many high-profile people identifying themselves as close friends of Charlotte's this week, publishing images of her with them on Facebook and pouring their hearts out on national television, it must be asked why this 47-year-old woman felt so isolated she was not able to call on a single one of them in her hour of need.
And which of these ''friends'' were advising her to cough up $1200 a week on a luxury apartment in Woolloomoolloo when her financial prospects were so dire? Despite earning a fortune over the years, it had become so bad Charlotte's living expenses were bankrolled by Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim, who alerted much of the media to Charlotte's death last Saturday morning. He knew before the authorities.
So many questions have emerged about Charlotte's death, and while apportioning blame would be pointless and hypocritical, surely the wider media has a duty of care when it comes to how we handle people with known mental health issues who are in the public eye and who have so publicly come apart at the seams previously.
I drew a line in the sand concerning Charlotte many months ago and she did not take it kindly, but I still question why so many media outlets, including the one I write for, continued to give her the attention she so badly craved, but which I believe played no small part in her tragic demise.
Sydney Morning Herald