"We believe you can have discussions about these valid issues without using discriminatory or stigmatising language and without weaponising Mr Ross’s distress against him"

Mental Health Foundation’s warning to social media users on Jami-Lee Ross

Reports that Botany MP has been sectioned and is in care for mental health issues have sparked a flurry of conjecture over the last couple of days. The Mental Health Foundation of NZ, which has to date not entered the debate around the controversial MP, who by his own account had a breakdown in recent weeks, has this evening issued advice to users of social media, which we reprint in full below.

We have until now remained mostly quiet about Jami-Lee Ross and we will continue not to give comment to media for the time being, but we’d like to say something to you.

We have been troubled (as have many of you) by some unkind and sensationalised comments regarding Mr Ross’s mental health. We know and accept that to have a sitting MP apparently sectioned under the Mental Health Act is unprecedented and there are many other aspects of this story that warrant open discussion, but we are disappointed to see old attitudes about mental illness and distress seeping into those discussions.

The Mental Health Foundation has no position on the political aspects of this conversation. But we believe you can have discussions about these valid issues without using discriminatory or stigmatising language and without weaponising Mr Ross’s distress against him.

We’re all very good at telling people to ask for help when they’re struggling, but today we’re asking you to think about what you’re telling those same people when you’re talking about Mr Ross. Everyone who is experiencing a mental health problem deserves compassion, support and privacy.

The damage done by thoughtless words and conversations can be hard to see. It builds up over time. Someone might laugh today but remember your words years later when they’re struggling. They might feel ashamed and be less likely to reach out for help.

We have heard from people who have had to turn away from social media and avoid the news because they have found these discussions so upsetting. We hope you’ll keep them in mind in the coming days and weeks. If you’re having a hard time at the moment, kia kaha. If you ever need to talk, you can free call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor, any time.

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