Monday, 10 December 2012

A Culture Of Blame

Mrs Saldhana killed herself. Let’s get that out of the way. Nobody forced her to do this. Nobody issued an instruction. She made a life choice, a terrible and final and utterly over the top one. Whilst many are rightly critical of our two young Australian half wits who engineered this prank, they are not responsible for her death, and they most certainly do not have blood on their hands. I spent three years working with the Samaritans back in my mid twenties. Suicide is a complicated thing, but please understand people who choose this path rarely do so purely on the basis of one incident. There are often contributory factors, a back story, additional material causing a person to make a final decisive choice. Here’s where I’m intrigued, though. I wonder what support Mrs Saldhana got from the hospital. Was she chastised by her bosses? Did the finger of blame point her way? I don’t know, and we probably won’t pre enquiry. But I know enough about public services to suspect that a blame culture can often cause the rank and file unnecessary distress. When things go wrong we often seek to apportion blame, and sometimes I fear we do this without a great deal of thought. Enquiries rumble, people are summoned into closed door meetings, everything is pored over in the greatest detail. Mrs Saldhana was duped by a prank call. She made a mistake. She probably could have done better. But that’s all. That’s it. She was a human who made a mistake. She isn’t the first. I do hope she wasn’t made to feel as if she’d done something worse than was actually the case. I hope her line managers weren’t too eager to discipline or play the heavy. Some people are more fragile than others, and to find herself at the centre of a media frenzy must have been an imposing terror for her. Anyway, to cut to the chase, this isn’t my attempt to cast people in the role of heroes or villains. It is simply an appeal that when things go wrong, when mistakes get made, we ease up on each other and are aware that our reactions have consequences we cannot always foresee. These daft antipodeans wouldn’t have made the call had they known the outcome, and the hospital would have clearly given Mrs Saldhana the utmost support had they any inkling of her fragility. Mistakes were made, lines were crossed, and the wheels came off. Welcome to planet earth.

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