No warning of newsreader’s anguish — (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Kate Benson Medical Reporter

November 5, 2007

THE television newsreader Charmaine Dragun, like hundreds of suicide victims, gave no warning of her plans or her intense emotional pain.

Last Thursday, the bubbly 29-year-old was happily chatting with co-workers at Channel Ten’s Pyrmont studios about her plans for Christmas. Less than 24 hours later she was dead, having plunged from The Gap at South Head.

Dragun, described by friends as “the sweetest person you could ever meet”, had been on antidepressant medication for some time, but had recently changed to a new brand. Antidepressants can often take up to six weeks to lift mood, but to Dragun it must have seemed too painful to ride out the storm.

To many it seemed the talented and popular journalist had much to live for. Her boyfriend, forensic pathologist Simon Struthers, had recently moved from Perth to live with her, bringing her two much-loved terriers. The couple owned a $320,000 home unit.

“No one thought this imaginable,” a friend said yesterday.

“No one knew she had any mental health issues. She was always upbeat.”

A psychiatrist and clinical adviser to beyondblue, Dr Michael Baigent, said yesterday it was not uncommon for people with severe depression to present a facade that “everything’s fine and I am doing really well. If someone wants to conceal it, they will. I have had many patients with severe depression put on a smile and appear happy.”

The head of news at Channel Ten, Jim Carroll, yesterday hit out at claims by a former newsreader, Kelly Nestor, that Dragun had been depressed because she had been forced to move to Sydney to front Perth’s 5pm bulletin, broadcast from Pyrmont.

“Everyone at Ten is devastated and in shock at Charmaine’s passing,” Carroll said. “Speculating on what may have contributed to this tragedy at this time is unhelpful and insensitive, particularly to Charmaine’s family.

“With respect to comments attributed to Kelly Nestor, who by her own admission had no relationship with Charmaine, we struggle to understand what would motivate an ex-employee of Ten’s to make such inappropriate and ill-informed comments.”

A colleague said Dragun was not isolated and alone. “She had a really big circle of friends,” she said. “Everyone knew Charmaine. She was always going out, she loved music and she loved socialising. We are all left wondering now what she was going through because she didn’t appear to be going through anything.”

Last year Dragun told a Perth publication that she had “a real love-hate relationship with Sydney … It would be hard to imagine being away from my family and bringing up a family [in Sydney],” she said. “But we’ll have to see what it all brings. It’s good at the moment. Life is beautiful with [Simon] over there now.”

Dragun’s parents Michael and Estelle, and her brother Matt, travelled to Sydney on Saturday to be with Mr Struthers and declined to comment.