I was thinking about mental health this week following the spectacular situation of Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross and reflecting on a conversation I had with a very good friend recently about the issue.
She said, and I agree, that we would all be needing much less urging to ring helplines and the like if we could all just not be horrible to each other. In short, if we were nice to one another, both online and in real life (especially online, in the comments section on anything).
Some of the things that have been said about this man’s mental health and resulting sectioning under the Mental Health Act have been truly vile and I really feel for him, his family and friends.
Is he perfect? Errr, nope. Is anyone else perfect? Also, nope. I think the whole thing was best summed up by the Mental Health Foundation when they pointed out that the way we talk about those with mental illness can have an impact on those around us who might be fighting a battle we know nothing about. “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,” the Mental Health Foundation said on Facebook on Monday. Which I think is absolutely right. Someone you know might be listening and taking those judgmental comments on board to their own detriment. Or someone you love.
It’s also appalling how people are using this situation to push their own agendas, and it needs to stop. And if all else fails, maybe we should remember that old adage: “If you can’t be kind, be quiet”.
Claire Robson, Editor