24 Feb 2014

Twitter criticised after Dawson's death

9:02 am on 24 February 2014

A top mental health advocate in Australia has hit out at Twitter and Instagram after the television personality Charlotte Dawson's death, saying they need to respond more quickly to bullying attacks on vulnerable users.

The former New Zealand model and presenter was found dead in her Woolloomooloo apartment in Sydney on Saturday morning. She was 47.

Charlotte Dawson

Charlotte Dawson. Photo: AAP / DAN HIMBRECHTS

Her struggle with depression was well-known, and became particularly public in the past two years when she became a target on social media site, Twitter. Dawson was hospitalised in late 2012 after being bombarded with Twitter messages.

Charlotte Dawson was outspoken about her depression and in 2012 publicly waged war on so-called Twitter trolls.

Chief executive of the BeyondBlue organisation Kate Carnell said illnesses such as depression were usually linked to a cocktail of factors, including genes.

But she said relentless online abuse could exacerbate mental health concerns.

Ms Carnell said Facebook was ahead of Twitter and Instagram in actively protecting users from bullying.

Charlotte Dawson's sister said the New Zealand television presenter's fight against depression was one she could not win.

In a prepared statement, Vicky Dawson said her sister Charlotte was a beautiful person who will be missed dreadfully.

She said she and other family members would fly to Australia on Monday.

Dawson was a vocal anti-bullying campaigner and until recently had been campaigning for cancer resources.

A friend of Dawson and mental health advocate, comedian Mike King, said he hoped her death will make people see the seriousness of depression.

He said she was very misunderstood by New Zealanders and described her as a beautiful person who will be sadly missed.

"Hopefully this will be a tipping point for the way the media, the way the internet trolls; the way the doubters look at this thing and finally, finally face up and see the seriousness of what it's like to live with depression."

AAP reported that friend and Daily Telegraph journalist Taylor Auerbach wrote on Saturday, hours after her death, "her heart was made of something very rare".

Dawson left New Zealand at the age of 16.

Prime Minister John Key tweeted that he was shocked and saddened to learn of her death.

Other tributes have been flowing for Dawson, with shocked social media users saying the news of her death was a reminder to always be kind.

Until recently, Dawson was a judge on the Foxtel reality television series, Australia's Next Top Model.

She often appeared on morning and breakfast television shows, last appearing on the Nine Network's Morning Show on Friday.

She was once married to troubled Australian Olympic swimmer Scott Miller, who pleaded not guilty to drugs charges in Sydney last month.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Charlotte Dawson's death. A post-mortem will be carried out.