Search Browse On This Day Map Quotations Timeline Research Free Datasets Remembered About Contact

Pink Shirt Day remains about lgbti bullying, Foundation says

Thu 21 May 2015 In: Our Communities View at NDHA

Has Pink Shirt Day gone back into the closet? No way, says the Mental Health Foundation. Marlborough Boys' College students backing Pink Shirt Day last year Pink Shirt Day is tomorrow, and as it has loomed there has been some concern in the community that the awareness raising event doesn’t seem to be about anti-lgbti bullying any more, but rather anti-bullying in general, and that our cause has been swallowed up or lost. Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Judi Clements says that’s definitely not the case. “It started as an lgbti initiative in Nova Scotia and we don’t ever want to lose that focus,” she tells GayNZ.com. “It’s also the case that more and more individuals and organisations have got on board in the last few years, and we don’t want to exclude people – but we also never want to lose that focus. Because we know that lgbti people, particularly young people, are more likely to be the victims of bullying than others.” Pink Shirt Day began in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2007 when two 17-year-old high school students decided to stand up for a friend who had been harassed for wearing a pink shirt to school. The boys, David Shepherd and Travis Price, decided that the bullying had to stop. They went to a discount store and bought 50 pink tank tops, sent out the message to schoolmates that night, and the next morning handed them to students to wear. When the bullied boy walked in, according to Travis Price, "It looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. The bullies were never heard from again." In 2009 it was introduced in New Zealand by the Safe Schools For Queers (SS4Q) network along with teacher unions NZEI and PPTA. It was run for a few years on a community level, with youth groups like RainbowYOUTH, Q-Youth and Q-Topia running events around the country, and schools and other organisations getting involved too. In 2011 the Mental Health Foundation really stepped up its rhetoric, taking a firm public stand for greater recognition and awareness of the mental health issues faced by lgbti people. It released a specifically lgbti video in its Like Minds, Like Mine programme, and it backed a Pink Shirt Day letter-writing campaign to Prime Minister which had strong uptake. Judi Clements says the Foundation doesn't want Pink Shirt Day to ever lose its lgbti focus In 2012 it began leading the Pink Shirt Day charge, while still making sure lgbti youth groups were involved. There is no doubt the awareness and uptake of Pink Shirt Day has grown under the Mental Health Foundation’s watch. Though it’s hardly stacked with cash, it’s been able to provide specific resources, and it does have more reach than our community groups. It says over the past three years, there has been a significant increase in the number of registered Pink Shirt Day events, more orders of resources and an increase in media interest in the campaign. There’s also been another jump in Facebook likes for the Pink Shirt Day social media page in recent weeks. While Pink Shirt Day is still grassroots and anyone can run an event on the day, the Foundation has two central roles - hosting the Pink Shirt Day website, and stirring up media interest. The website provides resources like posters, stickers and t-shirts, along with sharing personal stories about bullying, which include lgbti stories. Messages it sends out through the media include lgbti statistics and anti-bullying information. The Foundation says it works with RainbowYOUTH and InsideOUT to make sure it gets this messaging right, with RainbowYOUTH’s Education Director Aych McArdle one of those offering advice and guidance. McArdle says RainbowYOUTH is proud to partner with The Mental Health Foundation, and ensuring that the needs of sexuality and gender diverse young people are represented in the campaign. “We are really excited about Pink Shirt Day this year with more schools than ever before signed up to take a stand against bullying,” McArdle says. The RainbowYOUTH team will be taking part, by visiting schools which are running events. It’s also hosting an afternoon tea at its K’ Road drop in centre from 2:30pm - 4:30pm, and will be encouraging all of its supporters to help spread the Pink Shirt Day message on social media by tagging RainbowYOUTH in their photos. Judi Clements makes it clear these types of initiatives are central to Pink Shirt Day. “We definitely want to keep that awareness and that emphasis and recognise that however big Pink Shirt Day becomes, and how many other interests it involves, such as bullying in the workplace, we don’t want to lose that centrality and focus on the lgbti community,” she says. “You are central to the thinking of Pink Shirt Day,” she adds in a specific message to our communities. “And if anyone feels they are not, let us know. We are always ready to listen and to do what we can to be even better and get more word out to support the lgbti community.” Find out more about Pink Shirt Day Events being held across the country tomorrow here  Jacqui Stanford - 21st May 2015    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Thursday, 21st May 2015 - 11:54am

Rights Information

This page displays a version of a GayNZ.com article that was automatically harvested before the website closed. All of the formatting and images have been removed and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly. The article is provided here for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of PrideNZ.com. If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us