The advertisement is intended to help expectant and new mothers, and it urges the Government to provide more support for postnatal depression. But the Mental Health Foundation says it will do the opposite and is going to cost lives.
Mothers Matter, a lobby group pushing the Government to increase support for mothers and pregnant people, launched an advertising campaign that told the story of an abused new mum.
In the three-minute short film, which has been airing on television for just under a week, the mother is seen struggling before taking her own life. Her father is shown taking over the parenting of her newborn baby, and he starts lobbying for Mothers Matter.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said the advertisement, which has screened with a content warning and helpline information, needed to be pulled immediately.
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It is literally going to cost lives, he said.
Unfortunately, I think Mothers Matter have actually put the people theyre trying to help into danger.
He said the foundation had spoken to Mothers Matter, which indicated it would not withdraw the advert.
After those discussions, Mothers Matter founder Chloe Wright said, through a statement, that the campaign was having a positive effect and would remain on air.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says the Mothers Matter advertisement is dangerous.
This is about portraying a situation that represents what is going on every day in our communities across New Zealand, she said.
A TVNZ spokeswoman said the broadcaster, after speaking to Mothers Matter, decided to play a warning before the advert screened and list helplines at the end of the three-minute advert.
But Robinson said that was not enough.
I’m certain it is putting women in danger. We totally support this cause Mothers Matter is advocating for. We totally support that they need to be assertive and must advocate strongly with the Government, he said.
However, good international evidence makes it clear that to sensationalise issues around suicidality is very dangerous. We must remember: One in 20 people in New Zealand at any point are feeling suicidal.
Gillian, a mother who asked Stuff not to use her last name, has dealt with maternal depression twice and said that had the advert screened while she was pregnant, it could have posed a danger to her mental health. She said she was concerned the advert would push vulnerable mothers to take their own lives.
She said the short film appeared to suggest positives came about from the mothers death. For instance, it showed her father overcoming alcoholism and stepping up to parent his grandchild.
What got me through [my depression] was my family, and they said to me, We want you around. Life would suck without you. But that ad said to me, Good things can come out of that, she said.
She was also concerned the Mothers Matter advert misrepresented the reality of mental illness. The advert portrayed a woman who had been abused while pregnant and whose family struggled with addiction.
Gillian said that portrayal risked suggesting that only women with welfare issues and other stresses would develop postnatal depression, which she knew not to be true.
It hits a whole raft of different people. My life was actually pretty good, with a loving husband and parents. There were a couple of stresses in my life but not massively. Theres a misconception that if youve got postnatal depression, someones been hitting you.
Mothers Matter founder Chloe Wright says shes received positive feedback about the advert.
But Wright maintained that the advertising campaign was succeeding in raising awareness for postnatal depression and maternal suicide.
As you can see from the overwhelming social media response the vast majority of comments are very thankful for, even relieved to see, the film, she said.
The campaign launched last week, with a screening of the short film at Parliament. Television advertising started soon after.
Where to get help
- Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
- Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
- Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
- Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
- Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
- Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- 0800 WHATSUP childrens helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
- Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
- Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
- Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
- For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).