DJ Fresh sparks storm over suicide with tweet that ‘cries for help’ amount to ‘attention seeking’

2011-12-01 00:00

POPULAR 5fm presenter and club disc jockey DJ Fresh was in the firing line from Twitter users and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) yesterday, after tweeting a message on Tuesday that appeared to encourage a suicidal acquaintance to follow through on his threat.

DJ Fresh, who will be mixing the decks in Maritzburg tomorrow night, posted late on Tuesday to his more than 144 000 followers: “Attention seeking person i know says ‘i just tried to kill myself’ … would it be ‘wrong’ to send them 5 ways that WILL work? #SOselfish [sic]”

This prompted an immediate reaction from Sadag: “@DJFreshSA 1.Not attention seeking, a cry for help. 2.Would u give ur kids those same 5 ways if they said that to u? Disappointed@ that tweet”.

The 5FM DJ then defended his tweet, adding: “Attention seeker … i KNOW them … YOU DONT … go thru this drill every single yr… including all possible ‘interventions’ …”

To which Sadag responded: “we DO go through it … about 400 suicidal calls EVERYDAY. They keep threaten[ing] because they need help. They will do it one day.”

DJ Fresh went on to refer to his suicidal friend as a “spoilt brat that does this so they have shit go their way evry yr end … all interventions tried! maybe help them “out” now”.

The deluge then followed, with Twitter users responding to his tweets, some calling them “appalling” and “unfortunately unfortunate”, but DJ Fresh maintained he was talking about a personal experience.

He also said he would continue to support SADAG because he “ought to”.

The result of the row is that Sadag gained unprecedented exposure through ensuing tweets and blogs, and used the opportunity to create further awareness of suicide and depression statistics in South Africa via their Twitter account:

“75% of people tell someone or “threaten” first before they actually commit suicide. 220 attempted suicides & 22 completed suicides every 24 hours in SA.”

DJ Fresh held his view, with a final tweet on Tuesday reading: “i REPEAT: this person is NOT suicidal … they “cry wolf” to get shit go their way at home!! hence an gatvol [sic]”.

His follow-up yesterday morning read: “glad that my tweet bout my cousin got you all the press u otherwise would not have gotten! My view on this ONE individual stands”.

Sarah Britten of the Mail & Guardian joined Sadag in highlighting Fresh’s celebrity status influence,writing on her blog, “Can you imagine how a depressed 17-year-old — already feeling overwhelmed by their situation and not getting the support they need — will feel when reading that tweet by the cool guy he or she hears on the radio? By somebody whose opinion matters?”

Sadag accused DJ Fresh of undoing the hard work it had done with him when he supported their campaign to de-stigmatise mental health issues,

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