Tuesday 17 October 2017

Why mental health police got it wrong with Sinead

The singer's social media posts make for painful reading, but there's more to them than wailing angst

Tortured soul: Sinead O'Connor's condition requires more than just a few comments of support or abuse on social media Photo: David Conachy
Tortured soul: Sinead O'Connor's condition requires more than just a few comments of support or abuse on social media Photo: David Conachy
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

There was a wearying familiarity to the brief disappearance of Sinead O'Connor in America last week. First there was a press release from the sheriff's department in Wilmette - the suburb of Chicago where she is living. Throughout that afternoon there were bulletins on CNN and Sky News, reminiscent of the news reports from Dublin last winter concerning her disappearance then. Within a matter of hours Sinead was found. And then, just as swiftly: recriminations, emotional blackmail and the unrestrained fury of her Facebook feed, in which she once again lambasted her family in the most vicious terms imaginable.

For those who have followed the singer's self-destruction, it was all too familiar: tragedy tinged with farce. And then, as before, she was gone from Facebook again. "By now you can set your watch to the cycle of Sinead's meltdowns," a friend of mine said. It seemed callous, but not untrue.

Such cynicism seemed to take sudden hold last week. There was a lot of online comment about Sinead, some of it negative. And that in turn set the alarm bells ringing for the mental health police in this country. After Sinead was located, a number of articles appeared decrying the online response to this latest incident. The trolls who had come out to mock or express incredulity at its seriousness were themselves criticised. On Joe.ie, Tony Cuddihy wrote: "We're one step away from the 'pull-yourself-together' mentality of the 1950s in this country, the shunning of anyone who doesn't speak and act and behave like upstanding people are meant to do."

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