23 Oct 2018

Mental Health Foundation warns over Jami-Lee Ross coverage

8:29 am on 23 October 2018

The Mental Health Foundation says language used to describe Jami-Lee Ross' distress is damaging to others with their own mental health troubles.

Jami-Lee Ross speaks to media after making a complaint to police about National Party leader, Simon Bridges.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Media outlets have reported Mr Ross was admitted into mental health care over the long weekend.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson told Morning Report stigmatising comments that have been made by politicians, commentators and on social media were concerning.

"I think most recently they've come through in some of the ... comments that appear on social media around some of the stories. But again, there are politicians, both local body and national, that are using some language that perhaps needs to be thought about more carefully," Mr Robinson said.

"It goes to that fundamental undermining of people and fear of people when they're going through a mental health issue."

Mr Robinson warned those who were using words like 'unbalanced' or accusing Jami-Lee Ross of blaming his actions on his mental health, were stigmatising mental illness.

"That stigma, that nastiness actually spills over to affect other people, it may be your sister, your brother, someone at your work, it may be you at some point in your life, who also finds yourself going through mental and emotional distress and remembers those attitudes.

He said he knew from his own experiences, there's already self-stigma to deal with.

"It is very easy to feel bad about yourself, to feel shamed, to feel weak and you should be able to cope with this, and to have those kinds of attitudes then amplified through others through their words, even if it's not about you, but somebody who's going through something similar to you, it's damaging."

Shaun Robinson

Shaun Robinson. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

He said that can stop people from speaking out and seeking help.

The foundation had already been contacted by people who were finding the comments disturbing.

He added there needed to be a clear difference between criticising someone's political decisions and someone's health issue.

"We need to be careful we don't jump into the put-down language we often throw at people when they're making decisions we disagree with, like 'crazy' and 'unstable' as a way of undermining their judgement, particularly when it's relating to someone who is clearly going through some very tough times," he said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs