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
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand
Publicly condemn the comments by fashion designer Denise L'estrange that "clothes look better on skinny people"