Thursday, December 13, 2012

Suicide over Prank - The questions no one is asking

I have been following with interested the handling of the suicide of Ms Salsanha. It is very sad to hear that some one with a young family and what we would assume has everything to live for would choose to take their own life. I feel for her partner and children and the energy they would be using to seek and answer why their partner/mother would make such a decision.

I am fascinated by the blame game which surrounds this issue. I am sure that the two DJ's involved are extremely remorseful and will never perform a prank of this nature again. They and their management would never have perceived that such a childish prank would have such devastating results.

What I do wonder about, as a Social Worker, is the state of mind of Ms Salsanha prior to the call? What issues were dominant in her life that would have caused her to take such desperate action? I can understand the humiliation that may result from succumbing to a prank of this nature but it wasn't life threatening and clearly was convincing enough for her to pass the call on to the attending nurse.

What are the protocols regarding a Royal being hospitalised and another Royal wanting to enquire about their well being? We are aware that this is not a normal family but if the Queen wanted to check up on her Grand Daughter in-law could she make a call to the hospital? Were the staff briefed on the protocol?

Lets look to another scenario. It is probably safe to assume the Ms Salsanha had other issues happening in her life that may have made her susceptible to suicidal thoughts. If this was the case - were the hospital staff aware of this vulnerability? Lets assume also that she was berated by her manager for accepting the hoax call. Perhaps she was made to feel guilty and ashamed by the conduct of her superiors. This may have been enough for her to topple into a place of absolute despair and humiliation.

I can't help but think that there is more to this than just blaming the pranksters and the radio station.

Could this be another example of workplace bullying with the most devastating result?

If the organisation is guilty it is now unlikely that they will ever be held to account because of the clever way they have diverted the attention away from the likelihood that they may have handled the situation differently.

Tony Tonkin
Accredited Mental Health Social Worker
International Counselling Service
Ph 0414 883 153


  1. Although you may be correct, I suspect that you are not. Ms Saldhana was Indian and in their culture suicide is a 'no-no'.

    I do think she may have not been 'disciplined' formally, but I expect it would be likely a whole lot of her colleagues and management would have said some things from 'how could you be so stupid' to 'you should have realised...' a sort of amusement from some, irritation from others and maybe a cross word from a manager about the implications for the hospital.

    For someone serious and dedicated to their work these words could lead to depression and fear. Indians do not understand European humour /satire necessarily. She may on top of it all have been very tired from her evening shifts and being away from her family have felt all alone and unable to 'offload' in telephone calls.

    So I do not agree having 'prior mental health issues' is needed to explain someone who went into work from the day of the call until her suicide to perhaps be laughed at and taunted, and not understanding this; unable to defend herself.

    As for the DJ's I think they should have thought about why they should call up a hospital in the night, knowing that night nursing is hard, stressful and tiring and would not give the person at the end of the phone a chance to 'realise they were being had'.

    Pranks can and do have devastating affects when people are sensitive and why adults need to indulge in them is incomprehensible.

  2. I agree you with you and I must admit I failed to consider the cultural issues here. Thank your for bringing this to my attention.

  3. I beg to differ here. Suicide is a no no in all culture and traditions. No culture will promote suicide as a way out.
    I am an Indian and lived in India for 23 years. Suicide happens in India as much as it happens anywhere else. Hence I do not think cultural issues must be brought up here. Anyone may feel humiliated
    I agree she might have been pin pointed or called stupid but I do not understand what drove her to commit suicide. Possibly something else already happening in her life