Could this documentary really change people’s perceptions of mental illness and help them be that little bit kinder to each other?
I hoped it would, I really hoped it would.
Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death aired on Channel 4 last week, a little over a year after the TV presenter died by suicide aged 40.
Watching it was like a kick to the heart.
I’d always liked Caroline Flack. I wanted to be in her gang. That laugh. That self-deprecation. Our shared penchant for perpetually picking the wrong blokes. I still laugh out loud when I recall her magnificently disastrous appearance on Celebrity Bake Off.
How could someone so seemingly happy and glittering with life have felt so bad, could now be gone?
Here, her family, friends and former colleagues look back on the star’s life and the events that snowballed in slow motion to back ‘Carrie’ into a corner she felt there was no way out of.
In what was, for me, the most gut-wrenching moment in the programme, old home movie footage shows a young Caroline, seemingly without warning, seemingly without reason, burst into tears.
Her mum, Christine, tells the audience that, from a young age, Caroline struggled to control her emotions; rollercoaster responses that continued as she got older, especially when dealing with the heartache of broken relationships.
Caroline’s twin sister, Jody (palpably, along with her mum, broken by their loss), quietly relays the inevitability of it all. The fear of losing her sister had clung to her for a long time.
With all that talent (and not just for presenting, did you see her win Strictly? Wow.), Caroline’s fame was much deserved. Fame suited her, but she wasn’t suited to fame.
For reasons I myself cannot fathom, a sizeable crowd on social media regularly thought it was OK to crucify Caroline. Screenshots of the venom poured on this young woman via Twitter will stop you in your tracks.
We discover that – in the wake of her alleged assault on her boyfriend, a couple of months before her death – tabloid reporting was not just downright cruel, it was woven from downright lies.
The documentary doesn’t aim to lay responsibility at anyone in particular’s door, although it’s pretty self-evident that the press’s final attacks and the CPS’s decision to take the assault charge to trial were the final straws for this already fragile human.
Footage of two well-known TV personalities having digs at Caroline are shown. Did these fellow famous faces know that laughing at her crumbling career would weigh heavy on her? I very much doubt it. Was it right to feature the clips? Absolutely. We needed to see how even a throwaway comment can have a deep, lasting effect.
Sadly, some of the audience weren’t wearing their glasses.
Even before the emotional end of the reel (a montage of Caroline’s life set to 80’s classic Everybody Wants to Rule the World) flickered into our living rooms, people had already taken to Twitter to berate the two celebrities, even tagging them into their hastily typed, shame ‘n’ blame vitriol.
I won’t name the celebrities. I want to help break the #BeCruel chain.
You see, whilst Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death couldn’t quite convince everyone to #BeKind, it powerfully illustrated how mental illness doesn’t care who the hell it haunts.
Who’s to say those who were tagged and dragged through the mud post documentary weren’t already haunted too?
I read somewhere that one of Caroline’s final google searches was ‘people who blame’.
Don’t blame. Don’t shame. In the words of Caroline herself, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”.
You can watch Caroline Flack: Her Life and Death on All 4
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