A record number of schools and workplaces across the country are participating in Pink Shirt Day today, a global anti-bullying campaign. Over 1000 schools and 850 workplaces have signed up to take part.

Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when two teenagers took a stand against homophobic bullying, mobilising their whole school, after a fellow student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt.

In New Zealand, the Mental Health Foundation is gearing up for its biggest ever show of support, including from the Vodafone Warriors, New Zealand Army and Police, Suzy Cato and Gemma McCaw.

“It’s inspiring to see more than double the number of schools, workplaces and communities taking a stand to create environments where all New Zealanders, especially our youth, can thrive,” Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says.

New Zealand rated second-highest for school bullying out of 51 countries, and as many as one in five Kiwis are affected by bullying in the workplace.

Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or asexual experience high rates of bullying, particularly at school.

“Bullying can have serious and ongoing impacts on our mental health and wellbeing. We know that people who are bullied are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and avoid going to school.”

“Bullying can also negatively impact performance and productivity in workplaces,” Mr Robinson says.

“Pink Shirt Day is a reminder that small actions lead to larger actions that create positive change where we live, work and play.”

Suzy Cato has always been one of Pink Shirt Day’s biggest supporters and this year is no different.

“I support Pink Shirt Day quite simply because it brings people together to make a change. We can do anything if we do it together. With aroha, we can put a stop to bullying,” she says.

This year, there is a specific Māori and Pasifika community focus to Pink Shirt Day.

“Māori and Pasifika youth are over-represented in our mental health statistics and we urgently need to support our rangatahi to feel safe and good about who they are right across Aotearoa,” Mr Robinson says.

The Mental Health Foundation is working alongside Te Kaha O Te Rangatahi Trust, based in South Auckland, to celebrate Pink Shirt Day with an event at Manurewa Marae.

“We want to support the kaupapa of anti-bullying within our community and spread the word about aroha and kindness,” event organiser and Te Kaha O Te Rangatahi Trust CEO Natasha Kemp says.

“People can expect music and hip-hop dance performances, kapa haka, food stalls and a strong presence from local schools,” she says.

“We want whānau to have the mana and strength to speak up about bullying and to realise what it’s doing to our rangitahi, whānau and community.”

Pink Shirt Day supports schools, workplaces and communities to be safe, welcoming and inclusive for people, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or cultural background.  Schools are also encouraged to participate in Bullying-free NZ Week, which runs 14–18 May, in the lead up to Pink Shirt Day. An initiative of the Bullying Prevention Advisory Group, this year’s theme is: Let’s talk about it. 

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