The Story of Kate Fitzgerald


 The day after Kate’s article was published, her father, Tom Fitzgerald, rang the newspaper to say he thought – was fairly certain, in fact – that the author of the anonymous piece was his daughter and that she had taken her own life between its having been submitted and published

She Radiated Talent, Energy, Beauty. She took Her Own Life At The Age Of 25 (Peter Murtagh, Irish Times)

Employers Failing People With Mental Health Issues (Kate Fitzgerald, Irish Times, September 9, 2011)

Kate Fitzgerld (Plan Ireland blog November 11, 2010)

38 thoughts on “The Story of Kate Fitzgerald

  1. H

    Depression is a horrible disease and the worst thing about it is the general lack of understanding that it is a disease with physical causes and not just a person’s inability to deal with the world.

  2. Miles O Tool

    It’s time for Irland to wake up to the level of suicide in the country.

    How many “single car accidents” are suicides?

    I know of a number of inquests where “out of kindness to the family” the finding was death my misadventure.

    We have a depressive moribund gene that soetimes rises to the surface and causes us to self harm.

    The Suicide Clusters that occur from time are truly frightening.

    With our finances in tatters there will be more people tempted to kill themselves.

    Talking about the issue is vital.

  3. Prada Meinhof

    Great story, well written by Peter Murtagh that should make us think. A lot going on there, I hope people read it and reflect on those they know around them, however distant, and how the conditions for suicide are created. And what a tremendous, open-hearted response from her parents. They must have been devastated. Contrast their views and gestures with those of some of our appalling politicians comments on suicide. Unfortunately, suicide isn’t a throwaway line in debate.

          1. jase

            Poor kid is right…The mentality that anyone who shows human weakness must be swinging the lead or angling for something is all too pervasive in many industries. I know I’ll sound like a sap for saying this, but a little bit of softness and understanding isn’t a difficult thing to introduce into your interactions with others, even in business. .

          1. Prada Meinhof

            I read the article and there is no mention of the Communications Clinic or Terry Prone. What are you inferring here exactly?

            She worked in PR and journalism loved it and had issues going on underneath. The message is seek help or help those who need it. Not don’t work in journalism or PR.

          2. Soupy Norman

            Are you being deliberately obtuse Prada?

            In the article, she says she was met with casual hostility and passive-aggressiveness when she returned to work, and her manager implied that she planned her absence and could not be trusted with seniority. She actually says “much of what my employer has done and said since my absence has been illegal.”

            That doesn’t really paint The Communications Clinic in a very flattering light.

          3. Prada Meinhof

            Nowhere does it identify the Communications Clinic. Nor does it tell us much about their procedures they do or not have.

            Many companies do not advise managers to even enquire of the details of their employees health if they are taken off. It’s handled anonymously though EAP or HR procedures, but that is neither here nor there for this story.

            If you have a beef with Terry Prone and the Communications Clinic, fine, but this story isn’t about that at all.

            Again, it’s clear there is no real understanding of mental health issues, the causes, the responsibilities of the sufferer and those around them, and what to do about it.

          4. Soupy Norman

            The Communications Clinic is identified as her employer in her blog. The IT article makes it clear that her employer was aware of the nature of her illness. The whole bleeding point of the article was to reveal how employers are failing people with mental health issues. I would have thought the headline alone made that abundantly clear.

            Sorry if I’m labouring the point.

            I have never in my life had any dealings with Terry Prone or The Communications Clinic. How about you?

  4. Bibi Baskin Robbins

    Prada: she wrote of her feeling of being failed by her employers. Her employers were The Communications Clinic. are you reading a different post?

  5. dec riain

    Pieces like this always puts me in the mind of the first time I read Anne Frank’s diary. Her voice was so vibrant in the text, it was hard to believe she was not truly alive somewhere.

    It is same here.

    We have all now got to know Kate (a bit a least). She seems nice. But although we have just been introduced, the connection ends before it begins. It seems she had an intolerable weight & made a decision.

    Only her closest can know her for all she was. That is their gift & our loss.

  6. Paulie Doohan

    “Much of what my employer has done and said since my absence has been illegal. And I do not think for a minute that what my employer did was an isolated incident. I know this article must be anonymous, and I have no interest in shaming those I work tirelessly for. Their interests are still inextricably entwined with my own.”

    Jesus Christ, Terry

  7. Jenny

    As an old childhood friend of Kates back in Ballymore Eustace I was shocked and saddened to come across her story. She clearly had achieved so much and had so much to give at such a young age. My heart goes out to her and her family. R.I.P Kate

  8. Wallaby

    Kudos to the Irish Times for this article and for publishing the original one. Pity they couldn’t have persuaded her to go public. Organisations such as the Communications Clinic should be held accountable for such dire treatment of an employee in need of support. Why was she so loyal to them? No doubt she had enough on her plate without having to take on her employers.

  9. h.j

    I used the communications clinic in the past for interview skills, I was considering going back there for a refresher, I won’t be going now.

  10. Alan Flanagan

    I’d like to say that this is an isolated incident but there is an attitude in so many industries that those who aren’t doing their absolute best at all times are lazy or incapable. It’s hardly surprising that it’s a PR company that’s come up here, a cut-throat industry focused on perception over reality. The fact is that depression is a medical condition, but if Kate had been hit by a car and returned on crutches I doubt those at the Communications Clinic would have had the gall to undermine her so.

    Life is more difficult for some people because of depression – and until this is acknowledged we will still have situations where people are being fired and picked apart for perceived personality faults.

    Kate was a dear friend of mine, and while I can’t bring myself to assign blame it does fill me with even more sadness to know that her final months were spent with people who could recognise neither her beauty nor her pain.

    My only hope is that now employers across the country might take a long hard look at themselves and how they treat their workers.

  11. Liam

    This article is both heart breaking and sad. I suffer from mild depression and was married to a person wth manic depression. The stigma of depression for both the patient and the family is hard to deal with on a daily basis. There are not many organisations out there to support the families. My partners family live in denial and if i was to stay i to also would have to have lived a lie. This illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain which a person was born with. They cannot prevent this. My life has been turned up side. This stigma has robbed me of my marriage partner, love and trust. Things have to change. The guilt I carry around everyday is gut wrenching. Dont judge until you have experiencedthe pain and sorrow of these families

  12. Linda

    Kate’s article is truly heart breaking. Peter Murtagh has brought to light the effects these types of organisations and their management have on people.

    In essence, Kate’s legacy has been offered to us. Let Kate’s death not be in vain. Action needs to be taken, from the top, to prevent this from happening to more of our young people.

    Kate’s family and friends are in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. Optrex

    Why didn’t Peter Murtagh disclose the identity of the employer? His article is incomplete as a result.

    1. Conor

      Legal implications. While what Kate said was true, in the legal sense they were still allegations. A newspaper can’t publish information like this, or at least not in a situation where the contributor is anonymous.

      I didn’t know Kate nearly as well as others here, but I still miss her. Even years after college – years since I had seen her – I thought about how I’d like to get to know her more, as she was a friend of my friends. And now I can’t do that.

  14. Kathy

    I think bullying takes away the protective layer that allows people to cope and be confident (bullying is mentioned in this case by her mum). Even Stephen King said this about the book FireStarter. I think that we will probably focus on a mysterious depressive illness too quickly – and conveniently tragically ignore the issue of bullying. Elephant in the room.

  15. Clare

    First sensible comment I’ve seen on this article, this poor girl’s death or any related to suicide. Not all suicides are related to depression or mental illness. Anyone, put under enough pressure by external factors could in a moment of madness make the wrong decision. Bullying in the workplace is rampant in Ireland and represents a real form of abuse by those in authority over those who have less power. The standard form of assistance by EAP’s, HR departments and even through legal redress is designed to protect the companies assets for fear of legal action. To this end employees who are bullied and seek help are sent to counsellors and doctors, diagnosed with mental health problems and offered medication (which in itself can cause mental health problems). Internal processes for dealing with bullying, when they exist, focus on mediation which is not an effective solution where authority is being abused. Those who can face the pressure of legal processes after already suffering from abuse find themselves poorly compensated and subsequently unemployable in their sector and have to retrain or move in order to find employment. This was the case when the economic situation was good and there was near to full employment. Bullying in the workplace should be legislated against and made a criminal offence, not just on the grounds of equality legislation but for everyone as the current financial/civil redress is limited and until there is a real punitive remedy for those abusing others it will continue to be a hidden cause of distress for many.

  16. Kathy Rogers

    Such a heartbreaking story. I can relate to Kate having suffered from depression for most of my adult life and witnessing the suicide of my father, mother and sister. I totaly understand how Kate must have been suffering and how this illness can be so applified at a young age. My deepest sympathy to both her parents and her brother. Just to let them know that Kate has given me the courage to say this about my family. I am a survivor of instutional upbringing but anyone who has suffered or is suffering from depression is as much as a suvivor as they have as little as the outside world to look to understanding.

  17. Kathy

    I’m uncomfortable with an assumption that bullying is by employers or bosses. In 2000s:I think bullying is today done by groups of peers or subordinates on behalf of a ringleader; it is usually ‘passive’, silent, undefinable, relentless. The trigger is a sense of inferiority or jealousy that marauds the ringleader – for some reason. <- While the employer is supposed to by law take steps to protect employees, I think we may be missing the point!

    1. Clare

      You’re missing the point. Bullying is about the abuse of power. What you are referring to is the kind of problem that HR departments can and do deal with which is conflict between employees. When a boss is the bully and/or supports the bully that is when you have a real problem as there is no mechanism to protect the person on the receiving end save the official route of legal action. By the way real bullying is not just name calling or offending someone on the politically correct spectrum, real bullying involves physical harrassment, threats, defamation. Until or unless you have experienced these things first hand by a supervisor who has authority over you then you have no idea what discomfort is.

    2. Marc W.

      You may be uncomfortable with it, but bullying takes place by bosses and employers, as well as other people in the work place… I agree that it may be carried out at times by other people, but that doesnt negate the bosses or employers from the equation.

  18. Terence

    “I’m uncomfortable with an assumption that bullying is by employers or bosses” Kathy, Do you really believe that? I could give you a detailed account of workplace bullying by a boss.

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