My Open Letter To A Writer At The West Australian

Hey there Guys,

As I posted earlier today I have been talking with the chief of staff and writer at The West Australian newspaper after my recent disappointing interaction.

Tonight I received an apology letter from the journalist who had contacted me and it is appreciated.

As it stands though I am still unsure if any moves are going to be made to ensure that gay and lesbian suicide is kept as an important issues in the minds of those able to influence in Western Australia.

To help keep the dialog open I wanted to share my reply. Some might say “it’s to keep the bastards honest” I prefer to view it as a way to “help keep the focus on the subject”.

Hey there K***,

Thank you for your email and I accept your apology.

Just to put a little context into me, as you know I am a GP.
I have a long history of working in mental health and suicide prevention having worked in both acute and community psychiatry before I became a family doctor.

I have a strong interest in mental health and naturally as a gay man I am going to fight to the absolute line for gay men who are struggling. For this reason I have recently been invited  become an advisor for a national gay and lesbian mental health project Mind Out

I am very serious about my work.

As I am sure you have read in my post I was thrilled to hear from you as any one who has even the vaguest influence and access to people’s eyes and ears can help prevent suicide.

To have you sign off with what read on my side of the phone as “sorry it’s not in my back yard, but please let me know when it is” I was left feeling that yet again the press had abandoned the issue as it’s too hard. Whether it’s too hard to talk about or to sell papers makes me wonder some times.

The fact that the case was in Melbourne is 100% irrelevant. You have gay and lesbian people in WA and by the law of averages you are going to have gay and lesbian people who are suffering with mental health issues which includes suicidality.

You don’t have to wait till a young man has a gun in his mouth to reach out to offer help. There is always a way to swing the topic to your local area.

I am sure you remember that one of Australia’s riskiest suicide demographics is young men who are isolated, much like being gay in a state with a large non urban population like WA. Add to the mix a situational crisis like recent diagnosis of HIV and you have a person in desperate need.

One paragraph in the media that reaches out, offering hope, offering phone numbers to call or even an online service can make and difference and save a life. Now it seems that is not going to be offered to anyone who may be looking for it.

Having spoken with your chief of staff I understand you are doing a feature run on suicide this weekend.

Please consider the following posts I have created as you think about this weekends feature.

Your boss has promised me a copy of the feature. I look forward to reading it and making sure that all groups at high risk were represented.

If you are as devoted as you say you are I would like to offer the opportunity to do the article you originally wanted to do again. You know my number.

I did mention this to your chief of staff but he didn’t seem interested. I wonder if you are.


Dr George Forgan-Smith MBBS BSc FRACGP

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