It’s a new day, but many of us are still reeling from yesterday’s terrible attacks. As more is revealed about the man who caused such pain, we want to send a gentle reminder that now is a time to look after each other, seek to find the things that unite us and remember that hate cannot be allowed to divide us.
It is our job as the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand to work toward creating an Aotearoa where all people can enjoy good mental health. It has been such a joy for us to see more and more New Zealanders say they really care about mental health, more people wanting to talk openly about it, more people wanting to know what good mental health is and work toward achieving it for everyone. But the truth is, we cannot achieve good mental health for everyone until we understand and work to remove the causes of poor mental health, and one of the biggest drivers of poor mental health is racism and discrimination – being isolated and treated like you don’t belong.
Sadly, we know some people are not viewing this man’s actions as the actions of one extreme individual, but instead are placing the blame on an entire faith or culture. This is wrong. Blaming anyone but the individual responsible for yesterday’s attacks and making Muslim New Zealanders feel unwelcome, unsafe or in some way responsible for his actions places an incredibly heavy and unfair burden on them. We add our voice to the many others saying this is unacceptable, and it must stop. We ask you to speak up against this kind of prejudice wherever you see it, if you can safely.
We understand many people are angry or frightened. These are human and understandable reactions but we have to find a way to channel these feelings in a safe and helpful way, one that doesn’t hurt other innocent people.
We have seen countless times in recent years that when the chips are down, most New Zealanders get stuck in to help each other out, no matter what. That’s something we’re incredibly proud of, and we hope you are, too.
But whether we are helping each other through a crisis or trying to get back to normal life, we need to make sure we look after each other and don't let old prejudices and fears slip in. New Zealand does have a problem with racism and prejudice towards minority cultures and we need to confront it. It is up to each of us to take responsibility to address this if we are going to create a safe, inclusive and accepting Aotearoa where everyone enjoys good mental health and wellbeing. We cannot allow yesterday’s events to create further division. Remember that we are stronger when we stand together.
He aha te mea nui te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.