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Monday, December 5, 2011

Famous Last Words - Media Transparency, Kate Fitzgerald and the Irish Times


I wanted to do a piece on media transparency for some time, but I never imagined that the death of someone I love very much could be the catalyst for this, nor did I foresee quite how disappointed I would be with publications I had previously thought were illustrious; publications I thought valued integrity and accuracy over all else. It turns out I was sorely mistaken. In August just gone, my beautiful and dear friend Kate took her own life; she was 25. The night before she died, she took the time to compose this poignant and erudite plea for better understanding of mental health. It was sent to my national paper of record, the Irish Times. It was printed under the condition of anonymity, and the piece you see below is how it appeared. I beseech you to read it, her words are far more important than anything I'm ever likely to write.


 


Kate's original article, as it appeared on September 9th

By the time this appeared in print, Kate was already dead. Katherine Chase Fitzgerald was someone who my meagre words alone can never adequately describe. Kate was one of the most intensely complex people I knew. She was at once passionate, fiery, creative, cuttingly intelligent, unflappably sarcastic and unwaveringly loyal. Throughout her life, Kate had campaigned for mental health awareness - it made sense her final letter to the world was one asking for compassion and understanding, not just for her but for everyone who suffers with depression. It was typical Kate that even in death, she was looking out for others. She was determined her loss and ours could be prevented in others. Many weeks later, the Irish Times ran an interview with Kate's parents, Tom and Sally. It spoke of their wish for others to learn from this terrible and tragic affair and to get help - a rather beautiful piece which you can read here.

In an ideal world, Tom and Sally's sincere wish that Kate's wish for a better understanding of mental health would have been fulfilled. There was no reason it shouldn't have been - the article touched many, many people. It became the most shared and read story on the Irish Times. Letters on message boards praised Peter Murtagh's piece, and many relayed how they were both heartbroken and inspired by it. In short, Kate had raised awareness of something important, something that always motivated her - she had, even in death, helped others. Kate's story was and is something that it is impossible not to notice.


But that was not the end of the story - Kate's former employers, also couldn't fail to notice the story. The company in question are called the Communications clinic - and they have their hands all over Irish media and politics. The communications clinic are a PR firm, representing several huge clients and with a vast media chain at their disposal. Under the auspices of media pundits Terry Prone and Anton Savage, they have a virtual monopoly on Irish media, and especially old media. But their remit does not extend to new media, and the online paper The Broadsheet published this article, linking the chain together.


Immediately after this, The Communications clinic went into damage limitation mode. This may be understandable, but their method of doing so was anything but - in short, they used influence and contacts to pressurise both the broadsheet and the Irish Times into retracting articles. Not legal pressure, as nothing Kate had said was accusatory and you cannot libel a company - they simply implied Kate was unstable and a liar. Broadsheet detail it well here.


Let me digress for a moment; I'm a scientist. As such, I'm motivated by facts, figures, what is real - in essence, truth. My interest in media is in its use for speaking to people, communicating with them and sharing ideas. Unusually for a woman in PR, Kate also had a keen appreciation of truth - she had integrity. Once, I'd written a science article for a certain newspaper - they ended up running someone else's article. Usually I wouldn't have minded so much, only the article they chose to run was full of utter rubbish and betrayed a total lack of basic research and a number of outright fabrications. I remember yowling down the phone to Kate about the responsibility of media to be accurate, and other such scientist-y complaints. Kate's advice was simple - yes, it was stupid, but the only way I was going to make a change was if I kept writing, kept trying - the truth would always out eventually. I stammered something unbelievably stupid along the lines of "maybe that's how it works in your... <stammer>... flashy media world!". Kate laughed. Then I did too. Every time Kate called me from work for advice on something science related, she'd salute me with "Greetings from the flashy media world!".


But that's just it - she took the time to call me, and other experts before running anything - she was meticulous and careful not to print nonsense or lies, despite the obvious temptation of doing so in her line of work. Kate was not wont to fantasy or fabrication - she had no desire to smear people or places - despite her diplomatic skill she was searingly honest in her dealings with people. Even her final note to the world is rational and careful. Yet despite this, the Irish Times bowed to pressure and edited what was in effect Kate's suicide note. In doing so, they removed all lines that made any reference to her employer. And utterly changed the context, butchering Kate's last words. 


Worse than this, they didn't make it clear they had edited the article - eagle eyed viewers from the broadsheet spotted it, forcing them to concede they had edited it. This is not integrity - this is cowardice. Kate submitted that article in good faith, and in good faith in should have remained. The perceived gripes of a company who were unnamed and unslandered should not have over shadowed the last words of a woman I loved - particularly as those words were powerful, moving and of deep importance. 


Is this the influence of a private company powerful enough to have articles by dead writers with no right of reply edited in retrospect, because it may make them look bad by association ? Last Saturday was Kate's memorial service - we gathered to celebrate her life, to be together and remember. I was playing and singing at it, including something I had written for it. I was nervous, and on some level afraid of letting her down. But when I saw this in the Times that morning, frustration set in and a sense of outrage and almost made me forget how nervous I was. 

The Irish Times, who apparently think it's ok to smear a dead girl with no right of reply.

I could not believe what I was reading - a crass and pathetic smearing of a girl who was no longer with us; a girl who had named no one, not even herself. Kate Fitzgerald was many things, but a liar was not one of them. Factual inaccuracies ? Had the Times chosen the more careful phrase "could not be verified" or some such, one could forgive a lot. But "significant assertions... not factual" smears that meticulous and honest girl as a fantasicist or liar. The apology also has the gall to insinuate she had made allegations against her friends, when she had done no such thing. She never named her employer, stating clearly she didn't blame anyone, merely pleading for better understanding. And even more appalling, apparently this apology came without an iota of legal threat. I wrote a letter to the times, asking to clarify which elements were not factual. They have not yet responded. Today, the editor wrote a frankly ridicolous piece to try and rationalise this utterly cowardly act, claiming that 'furthers details' had emerged requiring the article to be amended, and further implying some might be seeking retribution.


Nothing could be further from the truth - those of us that loved Kate don't care about vendettas, nor is this about seeking to attribute blame. This is merely about leaving her last words to the world as they were intended.

So is that how the Irish Times seek to handle the story of a girl who died before her time ? A girl who trusted them with her last words, and whose last wish was the altruistic hope people could learn something from this tragedy ? Or does placating media cronies matter more than the truth ? Shame on you, Irish Times. As the paper of record the onus is on you to report the facts, not parley with PR companies. I am disappointed. I know Kate would be too.

Media transparency is a vital thing - were Kate alive now, we'd be watching the case with interest, swapping opinions. I think she'd be fascinated by how the 'new' media like blogs and internet papers have been more forthcoming with facts than the old media. But that is a side issues - Please don't let Kate's message be forgotten in all this mess; as of today, even the butchered article is gone, replaced by text declaring a legal retraction, despite the fact the Times themselves claim no legal representation was made. This is why I have chosen to upload Kate's article as it originally stood - it is too late for Kate, but it may not be too late for someone else - please share it.

RIP Kate - 1986 - 2011. I will never forget what you taught me.

Edit: 17th Dec 2011 - Yesterday Kate's Parents spoke to the Broadsheet. I advise you all to read it. It's at http://www.broadsheet.ie/2011/12/16/let-kate-have-the-final-word/ and if you are disgusted with the behaviour of the IT, let them know by e-mailing kosullivan@irishtimes.com and by adding your voice to the chorus of disappoval at www.facebook.com/irishtimes . My letter to Kevin O'Sullivan can be found in the comments




71 comments:

  1. Great article, it should be widely disseminated. Peter Murtagh ought to be ashamed of himself, and the Irish Times ought to be ashamed of him too.

    Since you are obviously a Broadsheet.ie reader, can I just point out:

    Its = possessive

    It's = It is.

    A small, but important thing.

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  2. Fair play to you for bringing this to a wider audience. You are a good friend to her still.

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  3. I'm staggered that the Irish Times can be so crass to be honest. Nothing usually surprises me with the newspapers but they tend to plummet to new depths every day of late. I'll share this article where I can and hopefully keep the message that Kate wanted to share alive somehow.

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  4. I wasn't someone who considered suicide to be selfish before, especially if the person didn't have dependents. After reading Kate's original article I seem to be changing my mind.

    And, Anonymous author of the comment above mine, if we're going to talk grammar than "The Irish Times" is a publication and should be demarcated as such. How awful that having read this blog the only thing to strike a chord is a linguistic error.

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  5. I thank you for the feedback, and I encourage you to continue to share it. I am not so sure it was Peter Murtagh's fault - he seems a genuine fellow, but I think this is out of his hands.

    And I will correct the grammatical slips ASAP!

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  6. It's pure irony that, despite their effort to perform 'damage control', this debacle will be the first that most people will hear of 'The Communications Clinic'.

    A little silly that a PR firm hasn't heard of the Streisand Effect, in this day and age. Fail.

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  7. In following the scandal, I've been trying to decide if it's good PR or bad PR for the communications clinic. It's certainly become clear that the communications clinic can exert enormous influence on even the national paper of record. For a PR agency, that seems like the best kind of PR. That's what clients pay for.

    Kate, herself an employee, managed to get an anonymous opinion piece published - something else unheard of. So it's clear that whatever else, they are used to very high calibre of talent. It seems unlikely that they are unaware of the Streisand effect, but rather than their motivations are different. The whole affair gives the impression that TCC are /the/ influencers - they even managed to get a national newspaper to admit they don't need lawyers to print an apology, it's free advertising!

    No doubt the current storm is having an effect on morale, but with the above in mind, it seems like the only way to truly impact the clinic itself, if that is a goal, would be to make the identities of its clients known and to make it a PR problem for those clients. But how does one decide there's enough evidence for that to be ethical or not?

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  8. What did the Irish Times amend to the article? I would love to see the original article with markdowns to illustrate exactly what it was they altered.

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  9. "A girl who trusted them with her last words, and whose last wish was the altruistic hope people could learn something from this tragedy ?"

    Complete baloney. She wasn't trusting them with her last words - stop trying to make the article out to be something it is not. Nor was she making it her last wish for altruistic hope for people to learn something from her death. She wrote it three days before she died. She wrote of having learned to manage her illness and hoping to carry on with her life. She wanted others to be aware of the issues and to ask questions.

    The edited sections are irrelevant to the central point she was making. They are unproven accusations against her colleagues whom she explicitly did not want identified or shamed and why she wanted anonymity.

    You're obviously following the advice of your own blog title: repeating something erroneous often enough to make it the accepted truth.

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  10. "Complete baloney. She wasn't trusting them with her last words - stop trying to make the article out to be something it is not. Nor was she making it her last wish for altruistic hope for people to learn something from her death. She wrote it three days before she died. She wrote of having learned to manage her illness and hoping to carry on with her life. She wanted others to be aware of the issues and to ask questions."

    She submitted it the eve before she died. It was evidently of great importance to her, and her conversation with Peter Murtagh, referenced in his article on subject confirms that. I spoke to her that day too, and she seemed fine. But she was far from it evidently; even if it had been 3 days before (I question how you think you know this) she had already began to put the research into what she eventually did. Even if she had initially written it with a will to live, she submitted it having made a decision. It has become in essence her final note to the world - it should not have been changed after publication.

    "The edited sections are irrelevant to the central point she was making. They are unproven accusations against her colleagues whom she explicitly did not want identified or shamed and why she wanted anonymity. "

    They are entirely relevant. She states they didn't understand mental health issues well and suspects this is no isolated. To remove the section detailing their lack of understanding, yet leave in the "I don't blame them" comment is entirely remiss. It changes context utterly. She was not shaming anyone - she was careful not point fingers, painstakingly so.

    I am always open to correction where I am remiss, but I genuinely question your motives for coming from this angle.

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  11. Beautiful tribute David. You say she seemed fine when you spoke to her, in hindsight do you think there were any signs you missed?

    When someone who identifies closely with what they do (ie they get validation from doing a good job) feels under attack at work, it puts them under huge pressure. No doubt this was just one element in Kate's demise but an important one nonetheless. Sorry for your loss.

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  12. People need to stop calling the "Irish Times" a paper of record. It is nothing of the sort.

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  13. PS Also meant to say I don't believe Peter Murtagh was at fault. Once the sh*t hit the fan, it would have been taken out of his hands.

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  14. Wishing you the very best. This must be intolerable for you. Great piece, and extremely revealing. Hope all goes well for you, over time.

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  15. There's a lot of pain felt by those left behind when someone takes their own life. One way this manifests is anger. I think Kate's piece in the Times was very powerful and moving even once edited. I fear that taking issue with what the Times has done since will take away from Kate's essential message. Let's remember Kate and all those who take their own lives, and work to prevent such tragedies in future. Sorry for your loss David.

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  16. Please try to gain some comfort from the fact that Kate has clearly forced a reaction from her employers. It might not be the "right" one, and my cynical view of life is that you will never get corporate types to admit they are wrong, ever; but it has shamed them enough to flap about. If they didn't recognise themselves in Kate's words, they wouldn't have made these rather embarrassing (to them, if they only knew!) mistakes subsequently.

    Kate's words have worked, David. Maybe not in the honest, open way she perhaps would have liked, but they have worked.

    Condolences on such a huge loss to the world.

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  17. Kate's mistake was in choosing the 'flashy media world' to carve out a career. Her talents would have been wasted in PR, journalism which is a shark-infested pit better suited to the cunning than the bright.

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  18. It seems to me the Communications Clinic and the Irish Times did far more harm to their reputations than the original article ever did. And reputation, once lost, is almost impossible to regain. Instant Karma folks.

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  19. David - Kate didn't submit her article "the eve before she died". At least, not according to Peter Murtagh article, if you read it properly. He says she sent it on Friday 19 August. You and the journalist were talking to her three days later, according to your own accounts.

    There seem to be some inconsistencies in what is being said by various people about this event, and your article raised a number of them in that you seem to be ascribing motives or intent on both the part of Kate and others that don't make sense. However, you say you were a good friend of hers, and therefore, presumably you know more than most.

    There are some other questions to be answered, but perhaps you may not wish or feel able to answer them.

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  20. Just to clarify - Kate had actually written the first draft of the article a week or so before the final event. She had told a few of her friends about this. She sent the first edit to Peter Murtagh 3 days before, which they subsequently discussed and edited. The final edit was approved and submitted the eve Kate killed herself - and it is to this I refer.

    In any case, I cannot divulge too much but Kate's research into the method of her death was meticulous and effective - she had been planning it some time. She knew that piece was her final piece to the world, in stead of a suicide note. This is the interpretation of those close to her, for reasons I cannot discuss. You'll have to take my word on some of it, but it does not change the plain facts of the case.

    Indeed, her friends do know a lot more about Kate's motives, and intentions. And what she had endured. But I have tried to write this article without making needless assumption, basing it solely on what was in public domain. The rest is private, and she deserves some of that. Since I met Kate, she was crystal clear about what mattered. And crystal clear about why she wrote the piece, and what she wanted to achieve with it. In my mind ,that is all that matters.

    I hope that clarifies what I mean, and explains why I cannot go into detail on aspects of Kate's life. I simply do not want or need to bolster anything with information that isnt already in the open - at the end of the day Kate's message matters. Im merely disappointed it's been suppressed somewhat.

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  21. There's some seriously heartless morons responding to this tragic and poignant story. If this articulate tribute makes you feel cold towards the deceased and the author you have issues or an agenda that has nothing to do with the people concerned.

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  22. Interesting comments David - thanks for that. That explains the three days beforehand comment.

    Clearly you do know a lot more than readers on here. The fact that she started writing the article "a week or so" before her death puts her final three paragraphs of hope into context. The article was indeed written with "a will to live" as you say.

    When you say she had been planning the method of her death for some time, do you mean for some days or weeks?

    By the way, she says in her article that she had attempted to kill herself "some months ago" - I presume this refers to an earlier previous attempt rather than the mix-up on pills and alcohol incident that her parents talked about on TV where she went into St Pats Hospital for four days in July.

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  23. Its a beautiful tribute, and although I never knew Kate it is evident, even from the original article, she wanted to continue to help others enduring a pain she could no longer take. The longer this article is discussed, the more her act of writing it fills its purpose.

    I do not wish to defend the actions of the Irish Times, however, I personally feel they were right to publish an apology. Kate's intention (I can only guess) was never to identify TCC, and I doubt she intended anyone to feel personally responsible for her action. In that regard, the Irish Times should apologise for retrospectively identifying her, and by association her employer. However, I agree with the point of this post that the choice of words in the apology was appauling!

    Please everyone keep talking about this issue. It seems to be what Kate wanted and is what all people who suffer similar feelings need. But this discussion needs to get to a point of being constructive and identifying what needs to be done to stop others feeling the same, instead of trying to blame the Irish Times or TCC (not suggesting any one here is deliberately trying to place, just fear that's where this issue will go without any resolution)

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  24. Indeed - with regards to details of Kate's depression, or her previous attempts I will keep much of that off this blog. Her friends and family are all that need to know, but as she said herself, there had be previous attempts. The final one was more researched and more final, but really it's morbid enough and I don't want to dwell on technicalities, as the end result is the same - we lost someone incredible. As for how long she'd been planning it - some time it would appear, but again that is personal information that I don't want to dwell on.

    Chook, you may have a point - I could understand the Irish Times statement more if they had chosen their words more carefully - but in deciding to name her, they should have protected her integrity, not sacrificied it at the first hurdle. In any case, from what I've read TCC had no grounds to complain from a legal standpoint - apparently in Ireland you cannot libel a company. In any case, Kate was complaining about a lack of understanding - she did not imply malice.

    No one (at least none of Kate's friends) is blaming anyone or anything for Kate's death - though a lack of understanding cannot have helped. What is important is that Kate's message of understanding and insight into depression is sounded out loudly.

    On a side note, I still carry around a flyer from Kate's campaign for Welfare officer in DCU - even back then, at just 20, her chief concern was better access and funding for counselling services and mental health awareness. When I suffered my own bout of mental health problems (chiefly anxiety and resultant MILD depression) it was Kate who flagged it first and helped me immensely - I was supposed to meet her for lunch the Friday after she died, and the horrid irony for me is that I wanted to give her back a book on CBT she had lent me and thank her for everything before I went travelling. That is still deeply bittersweet for me..

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  25. Thanks for sharing details of your friendship with Kate. It is important because it paints a more rounded picture of Kate as a person, and in doing so couteracts the slur in the IT apology.

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  26. I'm disgusted at the behaviour of the Times. Once they edit something without the knowledge of the original author, it should explicitly state it had been altered. And the Communication Clinic are disgraceful people - they cannot even admit that they didn't handle the situation properly. To me it seems as though they wish to remain ignorant about how to cope with a depressed person.
    Thank you for writing this. At least online, there is some truth. I've shared this on facebook, twitter and google+. I'm hoping that people will take note - perhaps people like @Philly D. Something needs to be said about this entire, unfortunate event.

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  27. Interesting blog and good discussion compared to the drivel on other sites.

    As David and others have asked, the discussion should focus on Kate, her illness, her insights through what she wrote and what we can learn from it. Getting annoyed at the Irish Times or Communications Clinic won't move things on, in my view, and is not what the real discussion should be about.

    I'm interested in what Kate had to say about her depression and how it affected her. She grew up with it in her family, with her mother and other relations suffering from it, and two of them taking their own lives - that's an unusual backdrop of circumstances to be raised in.

    Did she dwell on this although she makes no reference to it in her article beyond her seeking some kind of catharsis? David tells us that she attempted to take her own life a number of times before Aug 22. Who knew about this? Just her friends and her family? Why not her employer/work colleagues?

    Following her self-release from hospital after two weeks (or maybe it was just four days as her father said, I'm not sure), Kate wrote that: "I expected to be accepted back as the hard-working employee I have always been. I do not blame my employer. Ultimately those who have not suffered from the illness do not know how to approach it in others - even those who have suffered from it may find it difficult."

    Do people agree with this assertion of Kate's that she applies to us all, not just employers? If you haven't suffered from depression, you don't know how to approach it in others.

    Was it a fair entitlement of hers to be just accepted back at work when she admits: I knew it would be difficult to explain to her employer, and I knew it would be difficult for them to understand an illness with no visible symptoms"?

    What should she or anyone else in similar circumstances tell their employer? Just that they were ill and no more? That would be safer and invite no further questions. Or maybe be more honest and say that they'd been in St Pat's for depression and to get some time out?

    Or - as Kate did do - also say that they had checked themselves out "against medical advice, left in a taxi at midnight with their clothes packed in plastic bags" because they "wanted to go back to work". Was this wise?

    Did she tell them that she had attempted to take her own life, or just that she suffered from depression? What should she have done? Should employers ask these kind of questions of their employee or would it be invading the person's privacy?

    How should employers behave? Do they have to restrict their questions within certain bounds of privacy? Should they ask for a medical cert declaring that the person is medically fit to return to work before allowing them back in the office?

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  28. "Getting annoyed at the Irish Times or Communications Clinic won't move things on, in my view, and is not what the real discussion should be about."

    That has been a common, and interesting refrain. I've noticed it happen a lot when an injustice is committed - the supporters of that injustice silence those challenging it by saying "it's healthier to move on and think of the real issue", implying that those who question a wrong act are somehow hysterical or monomaniac.

    Dismissing the testimony and value of a worker because of their mental state IS an issue. It's a relevant one, too.

    To my mind, the law was obeyed, but no justice was done. And as long as injustice is outstanding, and such flagrant injustice, no ghosts can rest.

    David, thank you for this blog entry. There are many who were or are in such a situation. For me, I thank God for my sanity - and watch it like a hawk. Regards, Susan.

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  29. "the supporters of that injustice silence those challenging it by saying "it's healthier to move on and think of the real issue", implying that those who question a wrong act are somehow hysterical or monomaniac."

    Susan - your comment does not mean you are hysterical or monomaniac. If you want to continue to raise the two organisations, feel free. Neither organization has said that they were dismissing the testimony and value of a worker because of their mental state - that's your opinion and possibly other people and you're free to express it as much as you like.

    The writer has given an opportunity with the copy of the original article and a forum to discuss what Kate Fitzgerald actually said. Do you have a comment on the article? On how employers should behave in the future towards people with depression or some other mental illness? That is the point of Kate's article after all.

    You thank God for your sanity so how would you have handled Kate's illness if confronted with it as an employer?

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  30. This is a wonderful and important article. I think I can answer at least one of the above questions. People who suffer depression may temporarily be incapable of working, in the same way as any person with any illness can be. It does not mean that they are permanently incapacitated, or that the value of their previous contributions should be lowered.
    I suffered a bout of severe depression in the past, to the point that if I had not had health care professionals in my immediate family, I might have needed full time care.

    Through understanding, help and treatment I recovered fully. I travelled the world, I completed challenging postgraduate studies, I have been and am a model employee. I am utterly unrecognisable from the person I was when I suffered from depression.

    Judging a person's merit based on how they are during an illness is not accurate.
    People are shocked at how much someone can change when suffering depression, but it doesn't occur to them that they can change back? Never mind the fact that given the statistics on depression in Ireland, this is quite obviously the elephant in the room as almost all employers will have at some point employees who have suffered from depression.

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  31. To Skip:

    "Neither organization has said that they were dismissing the testimony and value of a worker because of their mental state - that's your opinion and possibly other people and you're free to express it as much as you like."

    My opinion, eh?

    From the broadsheet.ie website
    http://www.broadsheet.ie/2011/11/30/kate-fitzgerald/

    Later that evening we were warned by a journalist that a “libel landmine” was about to “blow up in our faces”, that Kate had been “mentally ill” and that she had never complained to her colleagues or management about their attitude towards her illness. We now understand and it is our honestly held view that the journalist was told to issue the message to us and that it had originally come from a senior member of the Communications Clinic.

    At about 1.30am, after getting legal advice, we removed the posts.


    I am sorry to bring up what that individual said about Ms Fitzgerald's mental state in the quote, but it would appear that what I just said was not simply "an opinion".

    Thank you for your reassurance regarding my hysteria and monomania. I was having some doubts.

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  32. I suffered a bout of severe depression in the past, to the point that if I had not had health care professionals in my immediate family, I might have needed full time care.

    Through understanding, help and treatment I recovered fully. I travelled the world, I completed challenging postgraduate studies, I have been and am a model employee. I am utterly unrecognisable from the person I was when I suffered from depression.


    That is wonderful news, Anon. I am delighted for you. And hopefully should you ever crash again - please God you won't - you will have the tools to know what you need to do.

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  33. Susan: "I am sorry to bring up what that individual said about Ms Fitzgerald's mental state in the quote, but it would appear that what I just said was not simply "an opinion"."

    Well, in fairness you gave an opinion based on something you read on a website. However, it's not factual - even the BS quote you cite says that it is their view. And I did say that it was both your opinion and possibly other people's as well.

    I don't think you need to apologise for bringing up Kate's mental state. It would appear from what we've learned since from various broadcast media and print/online sources, that she was mentally ill and no one is really denying that. As her friend, David, has stated in this blog, she had attempted suicide a number of times, the most recent being four weeks before her death. He stated that she was planning and researching in some detail on how she would eventually take her own life. She was on medication and over-dosing, according to her parents, was abusing alcohol, was sleep-deprived, and shortly after a suicide attempt she checked herself out of a mental health institution against medical advice to get back to work. Ten days later approximately, she started writing her article about her illness and her employer.

    As one poster who suffered from severe depression helpfully said above, people who suffer may temporarily be incapable of working and without healthcare professionals in their family may require full-time care.

    It sounds like Kate Fitzgerald shouldn't have been allowed to return to work if she was still mentally fragile. However, what level of detail did she tell her employers about her mental health? If she was desperate enough to return to work as she stated in her article, did she hide some of the harsher details from them or lessen their significance?

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  34. Are alarm bells ringing for anyone else reading the frequent posts of what appears to be one person (primarily and obviously identifiable) as Anon?

    I'm shocked by the manner in which this person is enquiring about specific details of personal things in seeming pre-emptive defence of Kate's company. The words suggest this is someone who works for the company fishing for details to leak in their far reaching media clique. I would be wary of any small amount of information that is given here as this could only be used as a further attempt to sully Kate's memory/belittle your tribute to her by making further references to her capacity to deal with her situation. Either way it appears that her employers did little to assist her with whatever information they were given. I doubt any one person but Kate knows fully how she felt working in the company with what she went through and I am cautious that false and selective information could only serve to hurt her posthumously and deter from the important message that she is encouraging.

    For anyone that wants to query my motives in writing -I still work for a company in which I developed anxiety and depression after being consistently bullied my a manager for a number of years. I followed their procedure and I took notes and I reported it and I did everything one is supposed to in that situation. I spent years with buckets of meticulously organised evidence trying to fight for what I believed in and show them that I had been treated horribly because the strong person with principles inside me wanted to never have to hear someone else was being treated like I had been. Long story short I got worn down more from dealing with them and not being taken seriously. I tried to commit suicide last year. I informed my employers (who were already aware of how I was feeling and what medication and treatment I was recieving as I made a point to regularly update them), a couple of weeks afterwards (i had been certified sick from work for a while by then due to the stress, anxiety and depression) that this had happened . they went into damage control mode for a brief and frenzied period of time and started returning my calls etc. The statement at that point was first and foremost "we're doing everything we can for you and we always have, we have a 'duty of care' to ensure that you are working in a safe environment" while maintaining that there was "no record" of previous requests for assistance and it appears this duty of care didn't apply at first or indeed it doesn't afterwards. I still hope no one gets treated as I did but my advice to anyone in that situation is that no matter how strong you think you are, how much you think you are doing the right thing and that the company will want to protect you and that they will be compassionate about things, quit. Leave it behind and move to somewhere else. I wish I had done that long ago. I've been working my way back up from where I was mentally and it is a constant struggle, i'm a dedicated, efficient employee for the company I work for, I work hard and I do my job well but every day when i get up and go into work i'm reminded that I hate working for the same people who treated me as they did and what i went through with it so badly.

    Thank you David for posting this, it is beautifully written and a testament to your love for Kate. She sounds like a wonderful person and it looks like you were lucky to have had each other for what was granted too short a time. May she rest in peace knowing that she has touched many people with her words.

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  35. "Are alarm bells ringing for anyone else reading the frequent posts of what appears to be one person (primarily and obviously identifiable) as Anon? I'm shocked by the manner in which this person is enquiring about specific details of personal things in seeming pre-emptive defence of Kate's company. The words suggest this is someone who works for the company fishing for details to leak in their far reaching media clique. I would be wary of any small amount of information that is given here as this could only be used as a further attempt to sully Kate's memory/belittle your tribute to her by making further references to her capacity to deal with her situation"

    I don't like to make any accusations without due evidence, but you may have a very good point - some of the questions are requests for personal information that I cannot answer. And indeed, is not relevant to the story.

    I can however quell any suggestion that Kate was a liar or unstable; depression is a disease sure, but it doesn't 'cause' irrationality. Rather it manifests in a reduced enjoyment or appreciation of life, often tipping over into sadness.

    I'm touched by people reading this, and by some of the beautiful comments made.

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  36. Hi David,

    I believe the anon and "Skip" asking the constant accusing, inappropriate and intrusive questions about Ms Fitzgerald's state of mind are one and the same person, and that their behaviour is disgusting. Whether or not they are from the company I don't know.

    David my apology for the mentioning of the broadsheet.ie quote was, of course, solely directed to you as I thought it might have been distressing to read.

    I wish you comfort in the weeks ahead knowing that there are many people as angry and offended as I am at the treatment of your friend. This hurts all of us.

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  37. “Abraham Lincoln fought clinical depression all his life, and if he were alive today, his condition would be treated as a "character issue"—that is, as a political liability. His condition was indeed a character issue: it gave him the tools to save the nation”

    - The Atlantic Magazine October 2005 http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincoln-apos-s-great-depression/4247/

    Sadly what Kate tried to achieve in her anonymous article the Irish Times apology, with its glaring falsehood, has now prevented her article from achieving its objective.

    Nobody questions Lincoln’s immense achievements even though he was very prone to depression and at times his friends and family were concerned about him taking his own life. Nor should anybody question Kate’s achievements in her short working life. The quality of her article, its contents, the testimonials of her friends and family, and items like this article about her by Niall O’Dowd all confirm her worth as a person http://www.irishcentral.com/story/news/periscope/tragic-suicide-of-head-of-irish-democrats-abroad-----recalling-kate-fitzgerald-a-woman-who-shone-so-brightly-134552608.html .

    The big problem for society is the stigmatisation of those with illness due to their mental well-being. This process can be seen in a number of recent posts on this blog, which are objectionable and may well have been posted with an ulterior motive.

    The Irish Times was to be complemented in initially publishing Kate’s article and Peter Murtagh’s article on her death then helped to increase its positive impact. However, since then what has happened? The apology published last Saturday was a ‘game changer’ and has resulted in attacks on Kate’s motives, her personality, and her fitness to hold down a job, from a number of different. This is a disgrace.

    Depression is an illness with a biological basis e.g. serotonin levels in the brain. It is treatable with medication and/or ‘talking therapies’. It should not be stigmatised the way it is now being stigmatised in the case of Kate by some.

    Brenda Power had an article in the Sunday Times which was more reflective of the old Catholic Church attitude to death by suicide as being a mortal sin, and the deceased person was not permitted the normal church burial services. Yet the scientific knowledge of what precipitates suicide is very unclear. If the causes were known, in the manner than Brenda Power asserted, then the number of suicides occurring in Ireland and elsewhere would be greatly reduced. For proof of this just watch this short video of Harvard Professor Matthew Nock, an acknowledged expert on suicide http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dcPYRH6zzg .

    It is very important, David, that you and Kate’s friends and family protect her legacy. Keep up your efforts and resist the very vicious attempts to stigmatise depression and to prevent an open discussion on suicide and questions as to what society must do to prevent deaths by suicide.

    The ‘Anonymous said….’ post of December 6, 2011 10:17 PM was clearly written by someone with an agenda that was not benign.

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  38. David

    I clicked back here from one of your comments on another site and read the above.

    I've also reread Peter's article of November. This is quite clear that Kate sent the article to him on Friday 19th and he saw it first on Mon 22nd, and there was a brief email exchange which he references. There is no reference to editing and indeed the terms of the email exchange, which he sets out in the article with particular care & detail, completely belie this.

    Your statement above that the article was edited over the weekend of the 19th-22nd August in conjunction with Peter is completely inconsistent with the facts as set out by Peter in his November article (which is still up).

    The two statements together don't make sense - is it the case that we weren't told the full picture in Peter's article about the dialogue with him leading up to the publication of the article – a dialogue which he sets out in great detail - and if not, why not?

    I've commented on this story from the start on Broadsheet & have been very sympathetic to Kate's family's position but I am now completely and very genuinely confused about what occurred both in her workplace prior to her death and in relation to the submission of the article for publication.

    The confusion is added to by your statement that Kate wrote the article a week or so before submitting it on the 19th August. If written a week (possibly more) before submission the first draft would have been completed round the 12th August. But according to her own article, she only returned to work in early August. This would mean that the behaviour she talks about occurred within a very short time frame e.g. during her first week back at work. Yet in the article the behaviour is described in such a way as to indicate it occurred over a much longer period.

    It seems to me that the article - which on its face relates to the conduct of her employer after she came out of hospital in July - must be about more than just the period after she came out of hospital and can only really make sense if it relates to a period prior to that but this is not how it's written.

    I appreciate you may not want to explain this, and it is entirely up to you whether you want to do so, but it would ease my mind somewhat as I am now questioning my own previous comments on this issue and I do get worried if things I read, particularly in somewhere like the Irish Times, turn out not to have been correct.

    There may be a good explanation for this - and I hasten to add that I am not casting any imputations on anyone - but the whole chain of events as discussed above in my comment and indeed in your comments sounds most peculiar.

    best
    SDaedalus

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  39. I understand your concern, and I appreciate your sentiment, so I will try and respond - please be aware I cannot share everything I know, much as I'd like to. I do not want to start running stories, and certainly nothing that hasn't been already reported by Kate herself or her family.

    First off, I should point out that the focus on attempts and dates is going to put me into difficultly, as I can vouch all Kate wrote was true but it does not all refer to incidents already in the public domain - much of it refers to incidents that occured at other times and I cannot divulge that without betraying her confidence. I hope you understand - but as Kate didn't explicitly state the exact order of events in her article, I can see why people are assuming that's all it was, when in reality events played out at different times and it is fallacious to assume the Times article was the entire extent of it. I will reiterate what she wrote about her illness was true, and events could be verified by friends and her diaries, though I really hope it doesn't have to ever come to this - it would be an utter distraction to her message and would reek of attacking messenger.

    The one area I may be remiss on is to what extent the article was edited on 22nd - Kate had been in touch with Peter Murtagh, and the impression we have been given is that they discussed it and changes / right to anonmity etc were discussed. Kate offered to verify the details and that eve she ended her life.

    I realise how I stated it in my prior comment may have caused confusion - the full extent of edits discussed I cannot tell you, only Peter or Kate could. Perhaps many, perhaps none. They were in contact about it on the 22nd for sure. Indeed, I think Peter has done an expert job and I have sent him the link to this, so if there are holes in our series of events maybe he can fill them.

    All the same, this is losing the very focus I want to concentrate on; a better understanding of mental health.

    Please understand that I feel to reveal much more would be unfair and I will never actively betray Kate's confidence or memory. There are some details that just the family should know, and I know people mean no malice by asking questions but realise that sometimes I cannot answer them without violating something more important.

    This will be my last reply to comments re: Time frames. Please just read what Kate had to say, and learn something from it. Thank you.

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  40. David

    Just to thank you for taking my queries in the spirit in which they were meant, and for your sincere and honest reply.

    Best
    SD

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  41. It is fascinating that people are expertly confusing this discussion.

    Why was Anton Savage asked not to attend Kate's funeral?
    Why did Terry Prone refuse to attend Kate's funeral?

    The Communications Clinic is the clearest example of an Irish employer failing a person with depression. Before and after her death.
    We should talk about Kate and her employers. We should shout it from the rooftops because silence kills.

    Talking, listening and supporting can save a life.

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  42. Ann, you do have a point. But just to clarify, I don't want anyone to think this is a vendetta against TCC - they run a business, and perhaps they didn't act as would be expected. Perhaps, as Kate suggested, they didn't understand the condition. That is the crux of the issue. It could be TCC, or a chip shop in Glasnevin - the issue would be the same.

    Kate didn't seek to attribute blame, and nor so I. Only to raise understanding - awareness of a condition that can kill, but yet many great people work with everyday - Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Spike Milligan, Buzz Aldrin, Alec Baldwin, Lincoln, Newton, Harrison ford etc are all depressives who work but live with the condition.

    My issue was with the Irish Times initially doing something good by sharing Kate's message with the world, then under what seems to be nothing more than pressure editing it, then eventually slurring her character.

    Please do not forget her words, it's why I put them here. Thank you all.

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  43. I worked with Kate previously and it's very sad that she's gone and she will be missed by me and others.

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  44. Ann, it's all very fine to say 'We should talk about Kate and her employers. We should shout it from the rooftops', but you can't go around accusing people of something without hard evidence to back it up. Kate wrote about bullying in her workplace, without naming the company, but the Irish Times retracted it. There's a lot of confusion around why this happened, but it happened none the less. Therefore, while it might not be fair, that retracted article can hardly be relied upon to support her claims of bullying. What amazes me is that no more evidence of said bullying has been produced by Kate's friends, family, colleagues or otherwise.

    And you would think if the allegations of bullying were true, others from the workplace would come forward. I think evidence, coupled with other victims, would strengthen her claims. Without either, there's not much anyone can do..

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  45. Marnie, I think what you said about Kate's note isn't quite true - she never said bullying, she said lack of understanding. Sure, you could read it that way but the hostility doesn not equate to bullying nessesarily. It may, but Kate doesn not say that - she says she does not blame them, but we need to understand mental health more.

    The claim of bullying has come from OTHER TCC employees, and that was what the broadsheet covered. Indeed, I've heard negative things about the place said by employees who've had dealings with the place that truth is none of that is important - this was never a piece about blame, it was a plea for understanding.

    In any case, if she had wanted to take a case (as others have done, see court settlements with TCC) she could have done that, but it seems to Kate's friends she really thought the problem was not a case of bullying but rather a lack of empathy for mental health caused by an ignorance about it.

    Like I said, the issue would be the same for TCC as a barbers-shop or zoo.

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  46. Dave,I just wanted to say thank you for writing this piece. Kate would have so proud of the strength you are showing throughout all of this.

    As you know, she was my friend too. We were close for too short a time and while we didn't speak every day in the last few months, I feel as though there is a part of me missing now.

    For the Summer of 2005, Kate was my conscience, my reasoning, my confidant and most importantly, my friend. When it came to her friendships she always displayed an unwavering loyalty and I know it would have meant the world to her to know how much she has affected thousands of people with her story and, indeed, her warning.

    There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said but, Dave, I hope you know just how happy I am that I introduced you two. I have no doubt in my mind that you guys would have found each other anyway... far too alike for your own good - what with all the surplus intelligence and that. ;)

    Questions have been asked of Dave on here that are wholly insensitive and in no relevant to what Kate was trying to achieve and I have to admit that he has been far more diplomatic in his answers than I could ever even hope to be. Just remember when you are asking him these things that Kate Fitzgerald was a real person and she was one of his closest friends, so please show some empathy and sympathy for what he is going through.

    Anyway, I'll just finish up by saying thank you for writing this and I am so proud that I can call you my friend.

    x

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  47. I agree with David Grimes - he writes with honesty.

    Kate Fitzgerald did not write about bullying in the workplace. She wasn't bullied. She wrote about depression - hers and others. And how all of us deal with it when we meet it. Or more accurately, how we don't know how to deal with it.

    Kate's message is about a lack of understanding of depression by us all, rather than just a small group of people in an office, or medics in a hospital, or her seemingly put-upon friends. She said:

    "I do this.. mostly in the hope that I reach those who love depressives, live with depressives, and those who employ depressives."

    And in a later statement, she sets each one of us a challenge:

    "Ultimately, those who have not suffered from the illness do not know how to approach it in others, even those who have suffered from it may find it difficult."

    That sentence applies to each and every one of us. That's the real harsh truth we all need to accept. As a society we don't know enough about how to deal with depression and those who suffer from it - whether at home, in work, or at play.

    If we are to do right by Kate Fitzgerald and the many others who have suffered like her, we must learn to do better. Since her death, there have been at least 20 more suicides in this country - at least those that we know about and are reported. It hasn't stopped.

    We all should look to do more to mind ourselves, each other and our loved ones.

    That would be the best legacy from Kate Fitzgerald's death.

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  48. Another thought-provoking contribution to the discussion:

    www.joyofwriting.net/

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  49. A lovely piece Marla, thanks for bringing it to my attention..

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  50. So moved by Fitzgerald parents' statement today in Broadsheet, so brave.

    http://www.broadsheet.ie/2011/12/16/let-kate-have-the-final-word/

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  51. My family will, on the 10 of January, endure the 3rd anniversary of the loss of a sister to suicide. The description of this girl as "one of the most intensely complex people I knew. She was at once passionate, fiery, creative, cuttingly intelligent, unflappably sarcastic and unwaveringly loyal" could just as easily been written for my sister. That's why the rest of this piece is sad to behold. And aside of course from the tragic loss of this girl in these circumstances, one of the saddest things is that had her employer taken a moment to consider their position ironically they could have made a very positive contribution to the suicide debate whilst employing a 'mea culpa' approach. In some ways they are not to be blamed. Until suicide visits your door it's a confusing, mysterious concept. Initially it is only natural to look around for what might have been done better, sooner etc. If this girl really wanted to 'blame' her employer she would have posted this article online and named and shamed them. So what I find so sad (and indeed ironic bearing in mind her former employers are a PR company!) is that an opportunity was missed to express regret for just not understanding (and there's no 'blame' there because depression is very difficult even for the medical profession to understand), to use the experience positively by confirming a new workplace policy to allow depressed employees an outlet for their troubles, to mourn the loss of a member of staff and, perhaps most significantly, offer a donation to a relevant charity. I'm no PR expert but I suspect such an approach would have been met with universal approval, not least from Kate herself. It is indeed a shame that for reasons known only to themselves the company went down the road of bitter recrimination. Talk about missing the point. They're to be pitied though for doing so, not ridiculed. A

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  52. I'm so sorry for your loss A - time may reduce the intensity but I'm pretty sure it's something that never really heals. I only hope you and your family are ok - and you are utterly correct. Had they chosen to respond, all they had to do was be apologetic and at least appear to have learnt something. Something along of the lines of "Kate loved us as a family, and that was mutual. If there were misunderstandings and poor handling we will do everything we can now to rectify this. TCC have also lost a dear collegue to an illness; an illness we perhaps don't understand as well as we should. TCC takes this very seriously, so in honour of Kate, we are donating €x to suicide prevention Ireland, and will bring in training for our employees to better understand not just the mental health of others but their own aswell."

    Had they wrote something like that, people would have applauded them. But nay. They did not. What a lost chance.

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  53. David,

    That's it in a nutshell. And if one of the anonymous posters you referred to earlier is in fact an employee of TCC they might consider that such an opportunity still exists. On that point, I'm posting this with initials this time so as not to cause any confusion!

    Time is of course a great healer. My family has moved on although we'll still mark the anniversary. But I for one now have a much greater understanding and awareness of this issue. And one thing's for sure, rarely is 'blame' in the mix. And whilst I didn't know this girl it seems obvious from her initial article that she wasn't trying to lay the blame on anyone. She stated exactly that much.

    Maybe you should copy and paste that proposed form of words and send it to TCC for their response?!

    APD

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  54. As an aside - I suspect you've all seen the broadsheet interview with Kate's parents. If not, I've included it at the footer of the main article as an edit. Subsequent to that I have send an e-mail to Kevin O'Sullivan, editor of the Irish Times. You can too at kosullivan@irishtimes.com . Also please join the chorus of disapproval at facebook.com/irishtimes

    Here's my email to him...

    -----------------------------

    Dear Mr. O'Sullivan,

    By now you will have seen today's broadsheet article detailing the simply shambolic performance of the Irish Times in relation to the tragic death of Kate Fitzgerald. I e-mailed and called the paper on 3rd December, specifically looking for clarification to exactly what was factually incorrect about the article Kate had written for you, published September 9th.

    I did not receive any clarification, and now I see that was because there was none - you apologised to a PR firm at the expense of smearing a dead girl who made the mistake of trusting you to excise editorial competence and transparency. Indeed, I must admit I am not surprised you couldn't back up this assertion - I was honoured to have been close to Kate for the past 6 years. A simple call to any of her friends would have supplied you with ample documentary proof that she was no fantasist. Worse, Kate had laid no blame, merely suggesting others try to understand. But you turned that against her and I simply cannot understand this logic.

    The only reasonable reading of this is that you bowed to pressure from a PR group. Bravo, Mr O'Sullivan, for when a newspaper are scared of a PR firm and not the other way around, truly the lunatics are running the asylum. And unless you have the fortitude to do something about it, this will forever be your legacy. Kate Fitzgerald, like I, held your publication in high regard. She trusted your publication with her final words, which you have suppressed despite their veracity. I cannot fathom the cowardice behind that.

    But, Mr O'Sullivan, there is a way to redeem yourself and your publication - all you have to do is apologise and clarify to the readers that Kate was not a liar. Remove the smear you put on her on December the 3rd. No amount of suicide coverage will make absolve you of the disgust felt by so many of your readers until you have the decency to do this. Already many online articles and blogs (including my own, linked in footer) have written about this, and the Irish Times fast loses face - please restore Kate's good name and win back some of the respect you have lost in the process.

    Yours, in hope,

    Dr. David Robert Grimes

    PS: I have taken the liberty of CC'ing this to members of Kate's family and some of her close friends - I trust you'll understand my reasons for doing so. I do not expect you to reply but if you do wish to outline an alternative reason you may have had for such a course of actions, by all means reply as I -and I'm sure everyone else - are all ears.

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  55. I'm not sure that I can put fully into words what I felt when I read Kate's first article. It resonated so deeply with me that I read it several times over, and I still have to pause on reading it again now. In the last 2 years, I have struggled with depression, and bullying and mistreatment in work as a result of my depression. I didn't choose to become depressed, and I nearly didn't choose to receive treatment for it, but when I did, I made the decision to be up front with my employer. I told my manager (both managers) that I had been prescribed anti-depressants, and that I was attending therapy. I warned them that there might be some unforeseen side effects with the medication, and that the treatment was ongoing, and told them that I would try my best to keep my work life separate from everything else that was going on. Months later, I was sitting in my manager's office, explaining to him that I was being bullied by my workmates for what they perceived to be laziness and a lack of effort on my part (in fact, grogginess due to a medication side-effect, which had resulted in me spending time and a lot of money consulting with my doctor and trying *everything* to resolve the sleepiness, and quietness, because some days I couldn't even muster a voice to speak). His solution was for the co-worker and myself to talk, and ultimately, for me to disclose extremely personal medical details to the co-worker in question. Her attitude changed, the attitudes of the others did not, and eventually, I found myself again my manager's office, telling him that I was leaving. He told me that, when I had joined the company, I was a rising star, but that my light had dimmed in the past months. To be clear, I fulfilled my work requirements, I didn't miss deadlines, the projects I worked on were completed. My medical condition affected all aspects of my life, and despite trying my best, it just wasn't good enough. Depression dimmed my light, and I was bullied out of my job, under my manager's watch.

    I still find it difficult to speak about my experiences there, because for 2 years, I was so happy there. I did my best to keep up with life even though there were days when it felt like a monumental task to get out of bed. It might not be as visible as a broken leg, but what I had was a real illness requiring medical treatment, support, and dare I say it, compassion. Instead, I was told that my light had dimmed, and was ushered out the door on garden leave for the good of the team remaining. I should never have been put in a position where I had to leave my job as though I were some sort of spreading poison, and yet, here I am. My last year was, almost without exception, miserable. I left that job so completely disheartened that it has taken months to even begin to regain my confidence in my abilities, both in and out of work.

    Part two below:

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  56. Part two:


    One comment above really struck me as embodying the kind of thinking which needs to stop:
    "Was it a fair entitlement of hers to be just accepted back at work when she admits: I knew it would be difficult to explain to her employer, and I knew it would be difficult for them to understand an illness with no visible symptoms"?"
    Is it a fair entitlement of a worker who must, from now on use a wheelchair, to be just accepted back at work? Knowing that it will be difficult is one thing, expecting that, despite the difficulty, your employer will make some effort, is another thing. Your question speaks to a deeper discrimination, it is the kind of question you would not ask of someone suffering from a physical illness, perhaps because this is the only kind of illness you perceive as "real".
    Kate's experience is not some sort of isolated blip - it is a reality for many people who struggle with mental health issues, only to find that there is another battle to be done with your co-workers, and anyone around you who thinks that you can just "snap out of it". There is no clear cut way for an employer to deal with every single case, but this is the case for every disability or illness, or every condition that might affect a worker, temporarily or permanently. When people become ill, accommodations should be made, but as long as people continue to speak in hushed tones, acting as though mental illness isn't real, or isn't something to be spoken about, there will be young men and women like Kate who simply find that there is nowhere for them to turn, and take their own lives as a result.

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  57. I have been following this story/tragedy from September. (I used to buy the Times - however that's not what I want to write about). I can echo Jennifer K's story. And in reading Kate's story again and again, I know it is only a snapshot of what was and is a struggle for Kate, her family, and all those affected by her passing. Suicide is Not about not wanting to live, it's about wanting to end the pain. I have worked with clients over the years who have described the emotion as "the pain of living, outweighs the duty to family and loved ones".

    It is interesting that in trying to raise awareness of the darkness of this illness, and seeking understanding and maybe a little empathy from those she spent time with, that Kate has opened up for discussion exactly what happens when your light dims, how people react to you when you are struggling with your mental health. How many people who have commented on Kate, the article, and what has ensued actually knew her? People have reacted to all of it. TCC, the IT, Suicide, Mental Health in the Workplace,and who said what when!

    Then there's the people who actually miss Kate. There's a gapping hole. I never knew Kate. But I Knew someone like her. If Kate knew how much she was loved, or how much she would be missed, would she have still ended her pain?
    Recently Majella O'Donnell (Daniels wife) described her own experience of depression. She said 'people just didn't want to know. They would run away from you'. I can identify with that. Three weeks after being put on medication for the first time in my life I was told 'you should be better than this'. On and off for 5 years I have been aware of the black ghost that invades. And once, made the decision to end it all. The peace that came over me was an incredible feeling. What followed was a nightmare. I sometimes wish I had been successful that night.

    As for Kate, she is in a better place. She is at peace and probably happy. And as ironic as it seems, has probably done the BEST PR job of anyone's career. Rest in blissful peace xx

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  58. Jennifer - your story of work is very useful. Would you mind adding to the things you said because in my ignorance I don't understand them and as a manager for 17 years, I confess to not having a clue as to how to deal with your situation.

    You said you told your two managers up front about your illness which makes sense. What was their reaction to what you said? Confusion/understanding/uncaring?

    You then said that you were bullied by your workmates because they were accusing you of being lazy and lack of effort when in reality this was the groggy side-effects of your medication, if I've understood you correctly. Was it that your workmates knew that you were on medication and were unfair to you anyway? Or did they not know and therefore perceived you to be just "lazy" as you put it?

    Your manager proposed a solution of you sitting down to talk with the co-worker in question. Does that mean there was only one person involved or this person was the ringleader of the bullying because you said workmates bullied you?

    I can't tell if you think your manager's solution was a good one or weather he should have done something different?

    Did you resent having to give your personal medical details to your co-worker? In what way did her attitude change - for good or worse?

    You say the other peoples attitudes didn't change - did you expect them to? As in did you expect the co-worker to whom you gave the personal details to tell the others so they would stop bullying you or perceiving you as lazy?

    I am genuinely curious to know the answers to these questions. If I was in that situation, I feel I'd be highly conscious of not divulging personal details about your healthcare and yet at the same time be faced with trying to explain to other workers how their behavior was affecting you. How would you want that dealt with by your manager?

    I'm only interested in hearing Jennifer's response on these answers, not anyone else's. If that seems rude, then I'm sorry in advance. But the best and only person to give the answer is Jennifer and no one else. And if Jennifer doesn't want to answer, that okay, I understand. Jennifer - Hope life improves for you and that you meet understanding colleagues and managers in the future.

    Thanks S.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Whoever you are, S, you scream 'bully'. And you are a disgrace that you would try to use this forum for your own agenda. Though I think you show who you really are. We all have identifying qualities in the language we use.
    If you really don't know the answers to the questions you pose you should not be a manager. And, as someone who knows, it's people like you who send people on a downward spiral. So kindly, stop being rude.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Great article David. I have lost two people in my family very close to me from suicide and although under completely different circumstances I can still relate to Kate's story.

    My most recent loss was only four weeks ago and so is still very raw but I commend you for this article and for your responses in later comments.

    I hope in time your pain eases.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Let me explain to all of you righteous individuals exactly why the IT did what it did. I'm a journalist, but I don't work for the Irish Times. The Communications Clinic threatened them with legal action, and they folded.

    Why did they fold? Because all the plaintiff has to do in a defamation action is say 'that's not true' and the legal onus would be on the Times to prove it to a legal standard. A difficult proposition, I think you'll all concede, given that the lady who wrote it is unfortunately no longer with us.

    Had the Times failed to do so, they'd have been facing a potential defamation bill of hundreds of thousands of euro, plus the enormously inflated bills those down at the Four Goldmines like to dish out.

    So they folded. Might not have been the most courageous thing to do, but it was the most economically sensible thing to do.

    If you want to get angry at someone, direct your ire where it properly belongs: those who sue the media with frivolous actions designed to gouge out as much money as possible and those who actively encourage them to do so - our parasitic, ambulance-chasing legal profession.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Thank you for uploading Kate's article. I didn't get to read it before it was blacked out.

    ReplyDelete
  63. "Why did they fold? Because all the plaintiff has to do in a defamation action is say 'that's not true' and the legal onus would be on the Times to prove it to a legal standard."

    Based on what I've heard, it wouldn't be such a difficult proposition. The Irish Times could summon a few employees from the Communications Clinic to the stand and let them talk. Truth is an absolute defence in defamation cases.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Kate

    http://ourmaninstockholm.wordpress.com/

    ReplyDelete
  65. David, so sorry for your loss. Heartbreaking to lose a close friend so young and Kate sounded like an amazing person. Just to butt in (I've already commented on this shambolic situ on several blogs) here's a freebie video aimed at people with depression that might be a useful link on this thread: http://bit.ly/tn4s33

    ReplyDelete
  66. “The Irish Times could have fought, and had a reasonably good chance to win, a defamation case.”

    http://landsleaving.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/the-irish-times-kate-fitzgerald-and-defamation/

    ReplyDelete
  67. If anybody feels the Irish Times response has still been insufficient, please join us:

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/138673912911848/

    ReplyDelete
  68. IMSTA have just announced the appointment of the Communications Clinic as their PR advisers for 2012. Please email them and let them know why this is a bad idea.

    http://www.imsta.ie/node/478

    ReplyDelete
  69. Deirdre, just to let you know I received a response from them saying they will mention it at their next board meeting. I have a horrible feeling that is before January 12, which is when they will sit in a hotel and listen to that woman tell them about effective PR.

    If the Prone/Savage family didn't have the clout they do, the disaster they have made of this particular PR incident would have sunk them. They certainly aren't still in business because they're any good at PR, as this disgusting sequence of events have shown.

    I have every intention of keeping going until we draw them out and make them speak about this. Or shut them down. One or the other.

    (Apologies for hijacking your blog David and happy New Year to you!)

    ReplyDelete

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