I have been deeply moved by the utterly senseless prank call made and repeatedly promoted by the Australian radio station last week, and the subsequent tragic death of London nurse, Jacintha Saldahna. Descriptions of Jacintha paint a picture of someone who was loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent, competent, conscientious and private, someone who cared for the elderly in her neighbourhood and cared deeply for her children and family – the hallmarks of a highly sensitive person (HSP). A person with such a sensitivity style would likely have been mortified and completely humiliated to have been tricked into making such a significant mistake that would have impacted on those whom she works so hard to protect – her patients. HSPs care deeply about doing the right thing, particularly when it comes to the well being of others. I am sure that the overwhelming shame that Jacintha must have felt as a result of her kind, sensitive and empathetic nature was simply too much to bear.
The ‘pranksters’, all of those involved at the radio station, clearly have a different sensitivity style to that of Jacintha. Most likely high in sensation seeking and low in sensitivity. Of course they did not intend for someone to take their life over this, but I also suspect that if someone with a more thoughtful, sensitive style had warned them that this stunt was risky, bullying, exploitative of individuals and a breach of privacy, they would not have listened anyway. They would not have believed that some people could feel so strongly about doing the right thing in life and could be so devastated by having being tricked into doing the wrong thing, and then having news of their mistake blasted around the world.
What really perplexes me is that even when the station knew there was distress caused they chose to keep bragging about it and playing the recording over and over, and even after they issued an apology – they still kept playing it! Were they really sorry? Are they even sorry now? If, as the hosts have most recently publicly stated, they had never intended to get through to any of the nurses, why did they not terminate the call when they did get through? What if the news about Kate’s condition was not good – did they stop to think about the impact that could have on Kate, William and others? Do they feel that there must have been something wrong with Jacintha, rather than their actions? Perhaps like some, they will see this as an over reaction to a simple, everyday prank by a clearly unstable individual?
Representatives of the radio station have said repeatedly that no one could have foreseen such a terrible tragedy resulting from such everyday prank. I disagree with this. I believe that serious psychological responses can easily be triggered by some of the pranks played by radio stations, particularly one such as this and especially when the people targeted do not give consent for their gullibility to be broadcast to the public. You can not know the vulnerability of the person on the receiving end of the prank and it is thoughtless and insensitive to assume the person being pranked will find it as funny as the prankster does.
There are many people functioning in the world who have a sensitive, caring and trusting disposition towards others. They go about their lives doing good for others and seeing only the good in others. They do not seek their thrills and professional prowess at the expense of others. Sadly however, the sensitive, caring ones make for easy prey for those who do because they often do not think someone would do such a thing.
A caring, empathetic, thoughtful person would not play such a prank in the first place. In fact they wouldn’t even call something like this a ‘prank’. They would not dare to lie about their identity in order to breach someones privacy – especially not pretending to be someone in such high esteem as the Queen. They would stop to consider the possible negative impacts on the person answering the phone, the ward nurse and the impact on the patient when private information was solicited. They would not broadcast their achievement of having humiliated others and betrayed the privacy and common decency of others in order to gain notoriety, especially not without consent.
Believe it or not, I see everyone involved as a victim. That is the infinite tragedy of this situation. The perpetrators of the prank call are themselves victims – victims of a societal culture that seems to have forgotten that caring for the wellbeing of others is really the most important thing in life - victims of a radio culture that thrives on gaining ratings at the expense of others. They either don’t believe it is possible for people to be harmed by what they call ‘prank’ calls, which are really lying, bullying, exploitation and humiliation of individuals, or if they do, they chose to do them anyway because this is how they believe they will make more money. It is not just the Jacintha’s of the world who need help to protect themselves from those who take advantage; the less sensitive need help too – help to see that they can be funny and successful without risking the wellbeing of others to do so, and help to know that there are in fact many people in this world who are sensitive, caring and trusting and who might be deeply affected by having such a thoughtless joke played on them.
With all my heart, I sincerely hope and pray that Jacintha’s passing will not be in vain but will provide an invaluable opportunity for people to become more caring towards others and more thoughtful in their actions. I hope there will be a revision and tightening up of broadcasting regulations so as to give clearer guidance to those with poor judgment of that which has the potential to harm, and to provide restorative justice for those in breach of such regulations. I hope that the hospital will review it’s risk management procedures so as to ensure other nurses will not be at risk of falling prey to the thoughtless and unkind in our society. I hope that all involved will ask themselves – what could I have done differently in order to have prevented such a tragedy?
Above all, my thoughts and prays are with Jacintha’s loved ones at this very sad time and with all those involved at the radio station that they may become more like the Jacintha’s of this world – thoughtful, caring and compassionate towards others.