The Hoax and the Suicide — The Ultimate Question

Jacintha SaldanhaOne can rarely be completely sure why a person commits suicide. There may be motives of which most survivors near them can know nothing.

This is certainly true of Jacintha Saldanha (46) whose body was discovered hanging in the nurses’ quarters close to the King Edward VII hospital in central London last Friday morning. She is pictured above along with her husband and daughter.

Lord Glenarthur, the chairman of the hospital, called the death the immediate consequence of the hoax of the Australian television presenters impersonating the Queen and Prince Charles. It was Jacintha Saldanha who had taken the call. Lord Glenarthur may, or may not, have been right. Let us assume that he was.

The suicide note, written for Mrs. Saldanha’s family – her husband and three children who live in Bristol – has not been published.

She came from Mangalore, the port city in south-west India facing the Arabian sea. Her brother still lives there.

It would be hard to believe that an English, European or North American nurse would have become suicidal merely for having been duped.

It is suggested that there is a concept of shame in the culture in which Jacintha Saldanha was raised that is hard for us to understand. It is in that culture that we may find the explanation.

In any case, Lord Glenarthurm was right. He called the death, “frankly, tragic beyond words.”

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3 responses to “The Hoax and the Suicide — The Ultimate Question

  1. Elisabeth Ecker

    As an immigrant myself, I have always puzzled that new immigrants have no concepts of the mores or customs of their new country. Sometimes inadvertently they expect the same customs of their new country as the ones that were the reasons for leaving their old country. We spent far too little time and effort to acclimatize new immigrants. While immigrants can enrich the new country, the emphasis should be on enrich. Particularly challenging is the concept of humour and honour.

    • Elisabeth – I can only tell I was an ESL teacher, from beginner to advanced levels, and I and my fellow teachers tried to bring in community, encourage discussion of current issues, community interests, and teach our students the language they needed to engage with the community – from basics like banking or job interviews, to sophisticated discussions that drew on our students’ backgrounds from their own countries. We built community in the classroom and hopefully that extended to the students’ interactions in Canada. But if someone brings a profound sense of honor and shame, rooted in their culture – well, I agree with Eric’s comment – there are some cultural fundamentals that all of us carry within us and perhaps they are too powerful to be disregarded.

  2. Perhaps it was not simply because being duped but also because it involved the Royals. By the way, a Royal Commission, 32 years ago, reported that the use of deception to obtain confidential health information was a widespread practice in Ontario.