03 February 2006

Father hits out at Channel 4 suicide stunt

Irelandclick

The father of a North Belfast teenager who took his own life has blasted Channel 4 for showing a programme in which a man attempted to escape from hanging himself.

The stunt was carried out in the opening programme of a heavily trailed series called ‘Death Wish Live’ which has been running all week on Channel 4’s sister channel E4. Aired on Monday, the programme was called ‘Cheating the Gallows’, and the station’s publicity described how escapologist Jonathan Goodwin would be trying “to avoid being hung execution-style on live television.”

In the event, Goodwin had to be cut free by an assistant when he failed to free himself after 30 seconds. He said: “I was told it was dangerous and stupid and it turns out that the advice was right.” He was examined afterwards by paramedics and was said to be suffering from rope burns. Phlip McTaggart, whose son Philip hanged himself two years ago, said he was disgusted by the programme.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that people are making entertainment out of people who are depressed or unhappy or feeling down. You wouldn’t get away with it if it was cancer or some other sort of disease.”

“I was at a support group last night and some of those who were there had seen the programme and had to turn over because they were really very upset. I don’t think Channel 4 realise how sensitive an issue this really is. Talking on the basis of the island of Ireland where 600 people would take their lives each year, and even in England, Wales and Scotland where there is a very very high number of people taking their lives, this is such a sensitive issue that should not be made into entertainment.

“Any loss of a child under any circumstances is difficult enough, but when a parent loses a child through suicide it is more difficult because of the stigma that is attached to it and this type of programme is not doing anything to help break down the barriers. Making entertainment out of this is horrendous and to think that families would see this does not bear thinking about. Channel 4 should look at this again.”
Philip fears that the work of groups such as the suicide prevention group Pips will be put back because of the E4 show.

“There are groups like Pips who are out there working tirelessly to break down the barriers around this issue and then you are coming up against things like this that think someone trying to take their own life is entertainment. We will now be writing to Channel 4 about this and let them know how distasteful it was.”

No one from Channel 4 was available for comment.


Journalist:: Evan Short

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