Best known for her role as a judge on Australia’s Next Top Model, Charlotte Dawson suffered from depression. She lost the battle and died by suicide at the age of 47. She was found in her apartment on Saturday morning.
Dawson, born is New Zealand, had suffered from bouts of depression for years. As with most suicides, the police found nothing suspicious at the scene. According to Sydney’s The Sunday Telegraph, Dawson hung herself in her home in New South Wales. A real estate agent reportedly found her.
Dawson acted as a beauty and fashion director for Woman’s Day magazine. She was a fashion consultant for E! News and became a celebrity model, as the main focus point of many magazine spreads. She appeared on numerous TV shows and participated in the second season of The Celebrity Apprentice Australia, where she helped raise money for the charity, Smiles.
The TV personality and former model was no stranger to the media thanks to her line of work, but she used it to her advantage when she was attacked on Twitter. At one time she had tweeted, “You win,” before taking prescription drugs and drinking wine. Bullying abuse she endured on Twitter in 2012 led to her hospitalization after a suicide attempt.
Following the incident, she waged a war with an anti-bullying campaign. Dawson made it her personal mission to help others fighting a similar battle. She became an anti-bullying activist. She used her media connections to gain a platform for her message. She used Twitter, TV, radio, magazines and newspapers to spread the word. Then she gained the attention of the National Rugby League, who promotes a One-Community campaign to fight racial abuse in football. They made Dawson an anti-bullying ambassador.
According to Dawson’s friend, Alex Perry, she could not beat depression, despite her two hospital stays in one year. He said that the mental illness overshadowed her energy and humor. That is also apparent on her Twitter page where she is passionate about helping people and about her life in general, even while disputing over serious topics.
A Twitter battle ensued just days before Dawson’s death. She argued that people should not have to suffer from cancer due to lack of funds or insurance. She reached out with support for cancer patients. Then she fell silent, which is not unusual for someone contemplating suicide.
Approximately 2000 Australians take their own lives each year, compared to the 38,364 American deaths that occurred due to suicide in 2010, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in Americans. Statistics also show that 20 percent of people who take their own lives have had previous attempts at suicide.
There is a complicated connection between bullying and suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP.) While most people who are bullyied can carry on and cope with it, people who are depressed suffer more. The stress is too much and it becomes a heavy burden for them to bear.
Online abuse can worsen depression, said Kate Carnell, CEO of BeyondBlue, an Australian non-profit that works to promote awareness of depression. The additional stress of cyberbullying did not help Dawson’s mental state. Carnell called out Twitter, suggesting that the social media site needs better ways of handling bullying issues.
Dawson tried to spread awareness about depression, but eventually lost her own battle with it. Just days before dying of suicide, she was still reaching out and offering support to others.
By Tracy Rose