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Petitioning The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

Publicly condemn the comments by fashion designer Denise L'estrange that "clothes look better on skinny people"

Discussing the recent display of Glassons manequins with visible ribs on TV One's "Breakfast" show this morning, fashion designer Denise L'estrange commented that those concerned need to "get a life".

 "Let's face it, clothes look better on skinny people," she told the show.

While these comments have shocked New Zealanders for their insensitivity, the fact that Denise has a background in mental health promotion is even more disappointing, especially given the huge number of young women (and others) struggling with eating disorders - a mental illness linked with huge stigma, discrimination and an alarmingly high mortality rate.

Over the past years the Mental Health Foundation has had close links with Denise, accepting her high-profile support, and championing her story of recovery from depression. 

The Mental Health Foundation is the voice that challenges stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness in New Zealand, and in this role has highlighted a number of issues where attitudes expressed by public figures or in the media have contributed to stigma.

This important counter-discrimination role in society, as well as the Foundation's established relationship with Denise L'estrange, make it imperative that the Mental Health Foundation call out these comments.  

The Mental Health Foundation has led the way in acknowledging the social causes of mental distress, with campaigns such as the Five Winning Ways to Wellbeing, which highlight how everyday experiences contribute to wellbeing.

This and the fact that research shows the link between social pressures of thinness and eating disorders (many times eating disorders begin as a benign attempt to diet) should prompt the Mental Health Foundation to publicly condemn the views expressed by Denise.

"If walking past a store with a mannequin with its ribs showing is going to offend you or make you think that it's encouraging people to starve themselves, then I really think you may need to find better things to do with your life."

 Comments such as this overlook how glorified thinness can be a trigger for many people recovering from eating disorders, and contribute to stigma and discrimination against people with eating disorders. They should not be coming from someone who champions mental health recovery and social inclusion.

Sign this petition to call on the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand to join the opposition to Denise's comments by publicly condemning them.


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