Austria was shocked by the suicide of a doctor: how to deal with bullying in social networks? | Culture and lifestyle in Germany and Europe | DW

The news of the death of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr (Lisa-Maria Kellermayr) caused a huge outcry in Austria. The doctor was pursued by haters for many months – they threatened to kill him. The police believe that the 36-year-old woman committed suicide, unable to withstand the pressure on social networks.

Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was found dead in her own private practice. Several farewell letters were also found. In them, according to the Austrian press, the doctor accuses law enforcement agencies and the medical chamber of inaction and indifference.

Threats from anti-vaxxers

At the beginning of 2021, the doctor Lisa-Maria Kellermayr from Upper Austria came into the public spotlight. This happened against the background of the fight against the pandemic. A woman who worked in an ambulance was actively speaking out in social networks and the media against anti-vaxxers and campaigning for vaccination. In the spring of 2021, the doctor opened her own practice and continued to criticize the “conspiracy supporters”. As a result, she became a target for aggressive anti-vaxxers, and the activist began to be persecuted on social networks.

Deceased physician Lisa-Maria Kellermayr

Deceased physician Lisa-Maria Kellermayr

The situation worsened when, at the end of 2021, the Austrian authorities announced the decision to introduce mandatory vaccination. Thousands were held in the country anti-vaccination demonstrations. On November 16 last year, 600 demonstrators surrounded a hospital in the Austrian city of Wels. Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was shocked that the militant conspiracy theorists even blocked the ambulances’ access roads and the entrance to the clinic. The doctor shared a video taken from the windows of the hospital on her social networks. The following day, the Austrian newspaper Der Standard confirmed these facts, but that day the police denied her report, calling it “fake”. It was after this police tweet that aggressive anti-vaxxers felt that they had received carte blanche – on their forums they began to call the doctor a liar. And that was just the beginning of the persecution of the woman.

The doctor received threatening letters

Antivaxers have promised many times to deal with Lisa-Maria Kellermayr and even kill her. She repeatedly addressed both the authorities and the media, trying to draw attention to threats. In an interview with DW in early 2022, the doctor read an excerpt from one of the emails promising her execution: “Hi, stupid piece of shit! You can threaten me with lawyers, but you still can’t handle me. Instead, I decided to kill you. … Of course, I will kill all your staff. I am armed, I have a gun … “And there were many such letters, according to the woman. “These are not just insults like ‘you are a fat pig’. These are real threats for which you can get several years in prison,” the woman told reporters. She was sure that the potential for violence that exists was not sufficiently recognized and that the countermeasures being taken However, the doctor did not receive appropriate assistance from law enforcement agencies.

But the doctor took the threats seriously. She decided to privately provide protection for herself and her employees. She had a panic button under the table. A security guard was constantly on duty at the entrance to the private practice, in one of the offices the doctor installed a special reinforced door, and she always had a gas pistol in her dressing gown pocket. Lisa-Maria Kellermayr stopped going home from work, deciding to sleep on the couch in her office. The woman spent, in her own words, about 100,000 euros to provide herself with protection. However, the bullying in social networks did not stop, and the doctor herself lost patients. Private practice became unprofitable – after a few months it had to be closed. And on July 29, a woman was found dead in her office.

What to do with hate on social media?

The Austrian authorities reacted painfully to the suicide of Lisa-Maria Kellermayr. President Alexander van der Bellen visited the site of the doctor’s death. He called on everyone to unite against hatred and end the climate of intimidation and fear-mongering: “Hatred and intolerance have no place in our Austria,” he said. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the country launched an investigation into this case. Justice Minister Alma Zadić ordered prosecutors to perform an autopsy on Kellermayr’s body. The investigation must also assess whether the police are responsible for the doctor’s death.

The Kellermayr case caused a huge public outcry, and not only in Austria. This story was reported by many media outlets in Europe. The tragic death of a young woman has drawn attention to the real danger posed by hate speech. In society, discussions have flared up with renewed vigor about what the authorities and ordinary residents can do against haters and bullying on the Internet.

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Deutsche Welle is careful to report cases of suicide because some journalistic material on the subject is known to provoke mimicry. If you are under severe emotional stress or have suicidal thoughts, be sure to seek professional help. Information about the problem of suicide can be found at 989-50-50.

See also:

Dealing with haters on social media. Germany introduces new rules

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