Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. A day to raise awareness about suicide. It also ties in with R U OK Day in the hopes that people will check in with their loved ones to make sure they are doing ok. Statistics say that at least 6 people commit suicide in Australia everyday and a further 30 will attempt suicide.
I was going to write about the pain and despair felt when it feels like suicide is the only answer, but something else was bought to my attention. I was on twitter earlier and saw a flippant remark about slitting their wrists because none of their bingo numbers had been called. These remarks are not new but that doesn’t mean we need to accept them. After venting about the stupidity of it all, this video was sent to me.
Jeff Kennet is the President of Beyond Blue, an organisation that every day provides support to Australians who are struggling. Beyond Blue is one of the sites that I link to when someone asks me for information or needs support. So I was disgusted when the President said that ‘you may as well go and cut your wrists if Clive Palmer has an influence.’ Now say what you will about Clive Palmer and his ‘special’ kind of politics but is not appropriate for a man who is the face of an organisation that is attempting to rid stigma around mental illness to use such a flippant remark.
A remark like this laughs in the face of people who are working tirelessly to reduce the stigma around mental illness. Everyday there is misinformed people talking about the ‘crazies’ and how they need to be locked away from the community. These are uneducated people, they are not people who are the face of an organisation who deals with the mentally ill and their families.
People turn to Beyond Blue for support and information and I can’t help feeling that this man’s comments tarnish their reputation. I wonder why they allow a man with so little regard for his words and the impact they have on the public.
This of course is not his first off hand remark that has bought the organisation into disrepute. In 2011 Kennett made homophobic remarks that stated that heterosexual families are the best environment for a child’s mental health. This comment caused uproar in the community and many called for his resignation. Yet he’s still the head of the organisation.
Telling another person to ‘go slit your wrists’ or make light of the anguish that people feel everyday is NEVER ok. It is even more so when it comes from someone who is the face of a Mental Health organisation. I wonder why he is still allowed to head an organisation when he so obviously has no knowledge of the pain a person with a mental illness faces.
Only when we speak out and tell people that it is not OK to make flippant remarks about suicide will we begin to chip away at the stigma. By telling our stories, sharing our pain we are letting others know that it is OK to be open when you are struggling. It is OK to say ‘Hey I need a bit of a help right now’.
For more information have a look at the Suicide Prevention website.
Linking up with Jess for IBOT
What a blunder remark and in the given circumstances of the organization being represented they are poor words to use indeed. Your post has brought up an interesting concept to monitor what we say when we don’t want a particular outcome to occur. I don’t suffer from a mental illness but I do understand how sayings like ‘slitting my wrists if this happens’ or ‘i’ll kill myself if that happens’ are inappropriate and can have a powerful effect on your life. Thanks for another insightful post Tegan.
Thank you for your comment, it’s so true that we definitely need to take heed in what we say and the effects that it could have on those we speak to. I saw something recently about humble apologising. You may not have realised that what you said was inappropriate at the time, and a simple apology and actually taking in what the person is saying and the way it makes them feel instead of writing them off as overreacting.
Oh gosh Tegan what a balls up for him to make! You are doing such a great job at creating mental health awareness, keep it up lovely
Balls up indeed! Thanks for your kind words xx
It’s odd as he struggled with depression (and felt suicidal at times), which was how he got the gig in the first place.
Maybe he thought it was ok, because he had suffered with suicidal thoughts? Even so, as a public figure I think that there certainly needs to more care taken about the words used and how they can affect those they are trying to reach out to.
Comments like that are never okay.
Nope, not ever.
Those comments of his are totally inappropriate – not only because of the position he holds in that company but for what it says to people who are battling with mental illness !
Looking forward to meeting you later this week – have the best day (and lots of deep breaths on Friday will get us through !!)
Yes, while he is only one person, it does make me hesitate about the company as this is the face that they continue to allow.
Looking forward to meeting you too!
I guess as the President you have a responsibility to mind what you say. This type of remark was something that was commonly said way back when, but I haven’t heard it in quite a long time. I think it is time for Jeff to keep up with the times, and with such a huge role that he has been entrusted with, that he take more heed in how he represents them.
Yes, and I wonder how the people behind the scenes of Beyond Blue feel about his flippant remarks.
Wow, completely agree with you- that is really not good! Didn’t know he said those things- simply not acceptable for someone in that position. #teamIBOT
I had no idea either until the audio was sent to me. Absolutely appalled.
What a completely thoughtless throwaway comment to make, especially as the face of an organization that aims to help people who are struggling.
I agree we all should be more aware of these types of comments.
Great thought provoking post Tegan.
It’s so easy to make throw away comments sometimes but when we become the face of something, we need to take into consideration how our words will affect others.
Well Tegan, you know it was you who called me out for making these kind of remarks, and I am so thankful you did. I’d hate to inadvertently add to anyone’s pain, and I am so grateful that you brought awareness to that.
Since then, I’ve been a lot more aware of it. Just yesterday I was reading a safety notice at work, and one of the comments in there was about ‘suicide corners.’ When speaking with my manager about it, we came to the conclusion that it was possibly referring to parts of the store that are more likely to cause employee injury, but it is in such poor taste to call it that.
I’m so grateful that you took it on board and continue to be more aware of it in your surroundings xx
Thanks for this post. It really was a blunder for Jeff Kennett, particularly given his role. I know I would find it hard being in the public eye like that (I’m very prone to foot in mouth myself), but you would think it would be something he was particularly sensitive to.
One would think so, or at least he would have someone to help guide him so he doesn’t continue to make inappropriate comments such as this.
NO WAY, Tegan???!!! Did he actually say this stuff??? I’m absolutely disgusted!
But I’m also now going to be more aware of what I say. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
I was pretty appalled and on googling to find the quote about homosexual families I found more inappropriate things (likening homosexual relationships to pedophilia) and it made me wonder what on earth he is still doing as the face of an organisation that is about acceptance.
Even being unintentionally flippant to make some sort of political point is no excuse for someone in a position to know better – it is just so insensitive and wrong. I think it is really important that you are raising awareness because a lot of people don’t understand how flippant comments can cause so much pain even though they intend no harm. Not that it’s in the same league, but when we were going through infertility we had lots of comments ranging from ‘maybe you just need to go on a holiday and relax’ to ‘you can always adopt’ (which we did in the end). We’ve had flippant comments since adopting too – throwaway lines that people don’t understand could cause pain to our kids. While laughing about infertility sometimes helped (even as insensitivity often hurt), suicide should only ever be taken seriously.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – some people are just oxygen thieves! Great post, keeping it real as usual T – love it x
Thanks Tegan for bringing this to the forefront. These comments are lame at the best of times, but they are so much worse when they come from people in these sorts of positions.
Geez, I hadn’t heard that quote. Poor form indeed. I completely agree with you that using any of those expressions alluding to suicide is unacceptable. There are so many others, though, that I’m probably guilty of using – like ‘He’s driving me mental’ etc – we use words like this so flippantly. Thought-provoking as always Tegan.
I agree Tegan these comments are NEVER ok. Jeff Kennett is a big tool bag.
I generally would see a comment like that as merely a metaphor or cliche … i’m sure i’ve been guilty of it myself but I imagine that Mr Kennet would have been exposed to enough information and stats and vulnerable people to understand that it’s real enough for some. I’m not really in a position to make any other comment about other people’s suffering but to say, well done you for raising it, and i guess i’m of the ilk that providing people with safe alternatives to despair, and hope for the future, are the best ways to get someone through the dark times – that’s how i’ve coped anyway. xx
What a great article Tegan, I am in shock that someone who is meant to be a leader and advocate for mental illness could be so flippant and have little regard for the very people he is meant to be supporting. Did you send an email to BeyondBlue with your thoughts? I am a blueVoice with BeyondBlue, I might send an email to them, and see what their reaction is?
I didn’t let Beyond Blue know but from memory there was a statement released from Beyond Blue distancing themselves from the comment.
Thanks for sharing this so well. x
What was he thinking?? He flat out wasn’t. Even I would know not to make such an insensitive remark.