Written by Louise Morris
In the wake of former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack’s tragic death, the hashtag #BeKind has circulated on social media with tens of thousands pressing for change amongst media organisations and individuals to think carefully about what they post online. The hashtag follows the now harrowing words written by Caroline Flack on Instagram back in December. ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind’, Caroline urged to her 2.7 million followers. The haunting words now in hindsight a cry for help and insight into the extreme suffering and damage online criticism can have on a person’s mental health.
The hashtag comes after Caroline Flack, aged 40, tragically took her own life on the 15th of February, 2020 in her London home. Her death was ruled a suicide by hanging and caused outrage across the nation about the effects of bullying and trolling online with many celebrities and politicians voicing their angst. Lisa Nandy, a labour party leadership contender, blamed social media for failing to prevent harassment and bullying, saying ‘In no other area of life would we allow private companies to police themselves. We ought to make sure the state has a system of regulation and support around that’. Ex Blue singer, Duncan James took to twitter to preach to his 329 thousand followers, ‘they teach us at school to treat others how you would like to be treated, but sadly this doesn’t happen’ he pleaded.
In light of the devastating loss of Caroline, a petition calling for the creation of ‘Caroline’s Law’ criminalising media and bullying has accumulated more than half a million signatures. Likewise, more than a quarter of a million have signed another petition launched by actress Stephanie Davis which calls for ‘stricter laws around safeguarding people in the public eye’. Fashion retailer In The Style have manufactured a T-shirt with Caroline’s famous quote ‘in a world where you can be anything, be kind’ raising more than £200,000 thousand for charity, Samaritans, an organisation that provides support for individuals struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts. Speaking about the T-shirt, the clothing company said ‘the sole purpose of these #BeKind tees was to spread love, raise awareness and donations for charity and it’s definitely done that’.
We’ll never truly know all of the things that were going on in Caroline Flack’s mind that tragic night that resulted in her taking her own life, but what we do know is that sections of the media were quite happy to tarnish her name and drag her through the mud in order to sell some sensationalised version of the truth. It shouldn’t have to take for someone to take their own life for people to be kind, but worryingly, it always seems the extreme needs to happen for people to wake up.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offer support you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK AND ROI).