The suicide of a nurse over a practical joke sent shock waves from London all the way to Australia, but suicide is a surprisingly common cause of death, even for the rich, famous and successful.
Apart from professional comedians like Jimmy Carr and the late, great Tommy Cooper, few of us enjoyed being laughed at, and no one really likes to be played for a fool, but the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha was the most extreme of grand gestures. The Australian DJs behind this stupid prank can hardly be blamed; to begin with, the only thing more ludicrous than their impressions of the Queen and Prince Charles is the suggestion that anyone could be fooled by them. Secondly, what would a nurse or anyone else be most likely to do after being taken in by something so asinine? Most likely the "victim" would sell her story to the press.
We don't know yet what was on Jacintha Saldanha's mind, and probably never will, but it is not unlikely that she had other, more important things bothering her, and that this was simply the straw that broke the camel's back. Having said that, she is not the first and will not be the last person to make the ultimate sacrifice over something most of us would take in our stride.
In June this year, Bob Welch committed suicide at the age of 66. If the name is not immediately familiar to you, he was a successful time-serving musician who was once a member of Fleetwood Mac. His motive for shooting himself in the chest appears to have been linked to health problems, which is understandable, but maybe not so for someone who had given so much and could still enjoy a certain quality of life.
Why would a professional boxer kill himself? Maybe at forty and over the hill he decided that he wanted out. Darren Sutherland was 27 years old, an Olympic medalist, and having just turned professional had won his first four fights, all by stoppages, yet in September 2009, he hanged himself for no apparent reason, possibly over something many of us would consider a triviality, a joke, or something we wouldn't even notice.
In 1988, another rising star of the square ring, Rudy Pika, took his own life.
Among her many other talents, 19 year old Jessie Gilbert had won a place at Oxford to study medicine, yet on July 26, 2006 she fell to her death from an 8 floor hotel window. Jessie was haunted by her inner demons, so was the poetess Sylvia Plath, who took her own life in 1963 aged just 30.
Recently in Britain there have been three suicides of high profile police officers; David Rathband was an ordinary copper whose life fell apart after he was blinded by gunman Raoul Moat. While his suicide was understandable, the other two were less so.
Mike Todd was Chief Constable of Greater Manchester. He was also said to have had a complicated love life, which is a polite way of saying he couldn't keep it in his trousers. The married high flyer ended up killing himself on a Welsh mountainside.
David Ainsworth was another senior officer who ended his own life; unlike Mr Todd he was facing serious allegations of professional misconduct, but how serious could they have been? Every day in this country and throughout the world people from all backgrounds, including the poor, the elderly and the very young face life changing, traumatic and painful experiences, but they affect each of us differently. A woman may be gang raped and beaten to within an inch of her life, a year or two later, no one would have an inkling. Another may decide life is not worth living after a break up. One man may see his life's work even his family destroyed in front of his very eyes, yet pick up the pieces and struggle on, another will end it all over a sleight. Compare the suffering of Dr William Petit with the tiny career glitch suffered by 15 year old suicide Igor Tepikin, then say this is not so.
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