I didn’t know Charlotte Dawson. I met her briefly once at a Women of Letters event back in June 2012 and I remember thinking that she was even more beautiful in person than she was on TV. I have been a fan of Charlotte since the first season of Australia’s Next Top Model. I loved her frankness in judging, but also the kindness she showed the contestants. She appeared to be a person who cared deeply.
I didn’t know Charlotte Dawson but I started to cry when I learned that she had died on Saturday. Why? I can’t really say. What I find to be a blessing and a curse is my capacity for empathy. I was sad because I thought of how awful this news would be to the many people who knew her and loved her, the people who called her a friend. I was also sad because of the suspected cause of death.
The death of anyone in these circumstances is tragic, whether you are famous or not. And part of me is sad about Charlotte because I identify with her. Just because you are assertive and can hold your own doesn’t mean you should have to. The vitriol that was spat at her on social media on a regular basis was disgusting. While she was a celebrity, she was first and foremost a person. She had feelings and she also had a very public battle with the depression.
I know what depression feels like, having dealt with it for a decent chunk of my life. I know what it’s like to feel like there is no way out and that it won’t ever get better. But it does. It may not be all at once and it will take time, but I promise you it gets better.
It is a truth I wish Charlotte was able to understand. She mattered.
She wasn’t perfect. No one is. And her approach to dealing with online trolls/bullying was questioned by many. Sometimes she went too far the other way and boarded on the bullying she herself experienced. Even when her management dropped her because of this and how open she was about her depression, she didn’t back down and continued to raise awareness around mental health. That she was slaughtered for that so viciously makes me lose faith in humanity. The online bullying may or may not have had anything to do with her death, but it surely didn’t help.
Now is the time to have the uncomfortable conversation. If we’re being honest, the time came a long time ago. It’s time to discuss mental health seriously. It’s time to lose the stigma. It’s time for government’s to fund mental health programs. It’s time. It’s time for people to stop with the bullying. It’s time to realise how powerful your words are. It’s time to realise that everyone is fighting a battle and to treat people with kindness. It’s time to think about how your words and actions will affect others. Each person we lose to this is one person too many.
Rest In Peace Charlotte. You were a brilliant, fiery woman. I hope that you feel peace.
If you need help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14
This post was previously published on KiKi & Tea.