Did we all play a role in Caroline Flack's death? | Rebecca Jane

It has now been 12 months since the tragic passing of Caroline Flack. Caroline very sadly took her own life.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 3:45 pm
Rebecca Jane is the head of Group Operations at the PH7 Group.

Caroline’s personal history with mental health and relationships have been well documented by the media, and now her family.

Last week, Channel 4 aired a fantastic documentary about the ‘life and death’ of Caroline Flack. It was heartbreaking, but insightful. I invite you to watch it on catch up!

Her personal circumstances are widely reported! Caroline was subject to police investigation and a court case surrounding an incident with her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. There is absolutely no doubting the media pressure was intense, as were reactions on social media.

Caroline’s family talked about her mental health, and significant periods of decline over many years. The stigma she felt, and a pure battle to keep anyone outside of her circle knowing ‘the truth’ about how much she suffered.

I sit here as the head of a local mental health charity, PH7 LIFE and the head of a division of our company, PH7 HEALTH that looks after the mental health through the corporate world. Roughly, I help look after around 10,000 lives, and yet I wasn’t going to broach this topic - because I feel partly to blame.

Let me get this straight. Mental health is, and will always be viewed with a level of stigma. Whilst most relish talking about it, supporting it and changing it... there’s a significant amount of the population who are scared senseless when we talk about ‘mental health’, and if I’m honest, a lot are sick of hearing about it.

Where does the stigma come from?

In my mind, it is a place of fear. Fear you’ll be misjudged, fear you’ll be deemed incapable, fear you’ll have responsibilities removed, fear you won’t be able to perform, fear of judgement. The list is endless.

The problem is, if we’re the person struggling, we are going to struggle to change opinions on our own. However - we can take responsibility and ownership for how we treat, and subconsciously view people with mental illness. We should NEVER stop talking, even when our voice shakes or people are sick of hearing it. Each and every individual person has the ability to change a small amount of the stigma attached to mental health, by just using their voice!

Who bares the responsibility of mental health?

In my professional capacity, and just as a human being. I firmly believe there are 4 parts to this.

* The Person - first, and foremost, our mental health is OUR responsibility. No one will fix us, no one has a right to fix us, unless we try to fix ourselves first. Admitting there is a problem or going through therapy are two of the hardest things to do, but they are the most vital part of a mental health jigsaw.

* The NHS - our NHS do what they can do to help our mental health. That goes without saying... however, waiting lists are long. Sometimes, we have to find ways of working through our mental health without NHS services, by reaching out to charities, self help and private sources.

* Organisations / Companies - yes, I believe employers have a duty of care regarding their employees mental health. Private organisations such as my own are out there, the cost is CHEAP and they can take their staff off NHS waiting lists and provide private care to them for as little as £7 per year! Employees work day in day out and Make profit for companies, I firmly believe it is time those companies championed change and invested a tiny amount of cash into protecting the mental health in the people that make their company wheels go round!

* The public - yes... we all have a duty of care to each other. Our words damage and our words hurt. We need to acknowledge the things we say in person and on social media.

Did the media kill Caroline?

No. Caroline took her own life. Many, many forces were at play.

So many people have been bombarding social media over the last week claiming the media killed Caroline. The media had a job to do. Whilst some headlines were sensationalised and the press intrusion must have been terribly hard to handle, it wasn’t the only factor at play.

Personally, I think social media has more to answer for. It’s easier to blame the media or someone else rather than look at human behaviour and say ‘we had a part to play in this’. Own it, acknowledged our mistakes and not let them happen again.

I’ll start off.

Caroline, I’m sorry...

Caroline and I messaged a few weeks before she took her life.

We had some words about her handling of the situation with Lewis and the court appearance that followed. Was I unkind? Absolutely not, but I was honest with my views and that must have affected her. Whether it was in a small way, or a significant way, I’ll never know. I can’t pretend it was ok though.

Humans make mistakes, and I am one. I am paying a price for that. Let me say it now...

‘I GOT IT WRONG, AND I’M SORRY’

I passionately believe in honesty, but on reflection of what happened to Caroline, I had to look at myself.

Honesty is important, but so is biting your tongue. We can’t use a guise of honesty to deliver opinions that could have life changing effects.

I didn’t really know Caroline prior to this on a personal level, and I never knew of the struggles she had faced. Despite me often championing the phrase ‘you never know what someone is going through’. I clearly lost sight of that, and I bitterly regret it.

I’m ok with putting my hands up and owning this, despite what people may say. I know I did wrong. I think it is more important to be authentic and honest by owning my mistakes. Even if I am potentially putting myself on a chopping block, or a platform for people to stand and judge me.

I’m sorry Caroline. I wish I had reworded my thoughts or just held them back. I’m sorry for all of the awful things you had to read on social media, and I’m sorry that deaths like yours have to happen to make us realise the error of our ways.

We all had a responsibility to your mental health, and a lot of us let you down.