Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quit Blaming the Australian Disc Jockeys for Jacintah Saldanah's Suicide

In September 1963 to April 1966, there was a situation comedy called The Farmer’s Daughter, which starred actress Ingir Stevens, and actor William Wimdom.   

By today’s standards, The Farmer's Daughter was a sappy show about a young Minnesota woman who became the housekeeper for a widower congressman and his two young sons.  The show only lasted for several seasons; however; actress Ingir Stevens was strikingly beautiful which made the show all the more enjoyable to watch. 

The characters on the show had a happy ending as the congressman marries the housekeeper. But  in real life actress Ms. Stevens died of what appeared to be a suicide of a barbiturate drug overdose in 1970.   

How she died and if she actually committed suicide is not consequential to my thoughts today.  However, I did remember as a sixteen year old remarking to my mother that it took great courage for Ms. Stevens to commit suicide. 

My mother looked at me and said, “No, her suicide was a very selfish act.”

My mother’s comment has always stuck with me as a good summation of what suicide is about.  As I have become older, and have unfortunately known acquaintances that have committed suicide, I appreciate defining suicide as well as murder as being the ultimate selfish acts.  

The family survivors and friends of the deceased are left picking up the pieces always wondering what they could have done to prevent the act of suicide or murder. 

Another quote supposedly attributed to Phil Donahue is that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

An expansion to Donahue's quote, could be that suicide is a selfish permanent solution to a temporary problem and requires no bravery to commit.  Rather, it takes courage for a person who thinks of suicide to seek out help---and hopefully with good mental health care and perhaps medications the thoughts of suicide become less frequent if not totally eradicated. 

 The past several weeks there have been three incidents where one participant committed suicide.  Sadly the incidents have been:

  1. Jacintah Saldanha, the nurse who took a prank call from an Australian radio station was found hanging from her wardrobe door at the her hospital living quarters.  Apparently Ms. Saldanha, left several suicide notes.  
  2. Jacob Tyler Roberts killed  two individuals at a Portland Oregon shopping mall and then killed himself.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend and then committed suicide at the team's practice facility in front of his coach and general manager. 
For friends, relatives, and co-workers, none of these individuals had any indications of suicidal thoughts and in the case of Roberts and Belcher did not indicate a preoccupation of harming anyone.   It is with great certainty that in the murder-suicide  incidents authorities and survivors will be asking what turned  these apparently non-violent men into killers.
The suicides of the murderers  are easier  to understand on many levels.  The persons committing the murders, in their moment of clarity, knew  their lives were essentially over with and probably had  feeling of never being redeemed in the eyes of the public or the victims’ families.  Perhaps in their briefest  moment of sanity, the murderers knew their suicides were to be very permanent and yet cowardly solution for the very heinous acts that they committed.

But the one I find very troubling is the death of  nurse  Jacintah Saldanha.   

Unless the family shares the nurse’s notes with the public, there are victims in this very sad story.   Ms. Sladanha' immediate family and co-workers are victims of her act.   And the  Australian disc jockeys  are also victims of her action.   

The two disc jockeys will carry the burden of wondering did their prank really cause her to commit suicide or did Ms. Saldanha have other underlying issues.  And they will always wonder, if it had been another nurse who answered the phone,  would have the prank  not ended on such a tragic note.   

Regardless, Saldanha's suicide  hurt her children and her husband. Her decision was selfish with little regard for the effects her death would have on her family.   

Ms. Saldanaha's Husband and Two Children

Suicide is a very personal and selfish decision and the rationale for such a decision can really never be fully explained unless the person survives the suicide.   In the case of  Jacintah Saldanha,  the public needs to quit blaming the disc jockeys for her actions because however embarrassed she may have been, taking her own life was never necessary.

Sydney-based 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian  and Mel Greig

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