Royal Radio Prank Contributes to Nurse’s Suicide

December 13, 2012 – I am so sad about the nurse, Jacintha Saldanha, who committed suicide after being duped by an Australian radio prank. In her own mind, Saldanha was probably feeling judged and humiliated for her role in giving the pranksters access to Britain’s Princess Kate during the Royal’s hospitalization for severe morning sickness.

I expect that we will discover other underlying issues like depression or serious mental illness and that she had other issues going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about that were exacerbated by the international attention Saldanha received for her involvement in the radio prank.  The aftermath of the prank was likely the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Suicide is more likely to occur in those who have a serious mental disorder or who are suffering through  stressful life events and it is often perceived as a way out of intolerable pain or an impossible or overwhelming situation.

We’ll know more once the contents of her 3 suicide notes are released. It is noteworthy that she did not kill herself at home (most likely to spare her two children the trauma of discovering her body), and that she hung herself, although as a nurse, she had access to various lethal medications. Men are more likely to use lethal methods like shooting or hanging themselves while women are more likely to overdose. The lethality of her method (hanging) suggests she did not want to risk being revived (which is more likely in an overdose) and the brutality of hanging is perhaps a reflection of her internal torment.

Suicide has many contributing factors and we should all become aware of the warning signs. Warning signs include:

  • Signs of serious depression
  • Talking or writing about killing or hurting oneself or death and dying
  • Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
  • Making a plan
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Obtaining firearms or other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Hopelessness
  • Recklessness or uncharacteristic risk-taking
  • Unexpected rage or anger
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

If you suspect someone is suicidal, ask them directly. (eg., “Are you thinking about hurting yourself or killing yourself?) Inquiring about suicidal intent will never “put the thought in their head” or make someone kill themselves. On the contrary, it may be just the thing to persuade them that someone actually does care. Never be sworn to secrecy. Call 911 or your local mental health crisis team if you believe someone is an imminent danger to themselves.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. (nimh.nih.gov) and a suicide is committed once every 17 minutes (suicide.org). Let’s be more considerate of one another, more aware of what is going on with those close to us, and take responsibility to intervene when we are concerned about someone’s well-being. Rest in peace, Jacintha Saldanha.