Thousands of New Zealanders are speaking out in fury after an advert depicting a struggling pregnant woman taking her own life has been banned from television viewing.
"When are we ever going to be allowed to publicly talk about suicide? There are many triggers but it needs to no longer be a taboo subject, it needs to be talked about," one woman said on Facebook.
It comes after lobby group, Mothers Matter, launched the harrowing three-minute video earlier this month to put pressure on the Government to provide more support for parents with postnatal depression.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) yesterday ordered it to be taken off air after receiving 13 complaints suggesting it "was likely to cause harm".
National MP Louise Upston, who was one of the first to view the video, said she was "very disappointed" the advert had been taken down as "it was saving lives".
"Yes, it's absolutely tough and brutal to watch but the reality is if we are serious about making changes then we need to confront that brutal truth," she said.
Her comments were echoed by another woman on Facebook who described the campaign as her "saving grace" after she tried to take her own life a month ago.
"I was able to show people how I felt without needing to speak it," she said.
Upston said the speeding and drink driving campaigns were just brutal and uncomfortable and we kept them because at the end of the day they make a difference.
Seventeen MPs, including Act leader David Seymour, National MP Louise Upston and Health Minister Andrew Little, were at the launch of the video and were left silent, with some holding back tears.
Seymour was also outraged by the ban, saying ASA had basically put the sensitivity of 13 complaints ahead of a nationwide conversation on a matter of critical importance.
"ASA needs to have a good hard look at itself and ask itself where its balance is between interfering in political discussion and upholding standards of broadcasting."
"If we can't have an honest conversation about [maternal suicide], I don't know what we can talk about it," he said.
Overnight thousands of people took to social media angry at the ban, with many saying it was yet another example of women being silenced.
"That's always the way in NZ. Sweep suicide under the rug, into the shadows. Don't show it, don't tell it, keep it silent, pretend it won't happen, pretend it doesn't happen. Pathetic," one person wrote on Facebook.
Another said: "As a mother who has lost her child to suicide this advert was hard-hitting for me. However, the message was clear, and needs to be out there. It strikes at the heart of a number of issues. No matter how it may trigger me, it's too important not to be shown."
Many more opened up about their own experience battling postnatal depression.
In the short film - created by Moonshine Films in partnership with Mothers Matter - a pregnant woman is trapped in a violent relationship when she discovers she's pregnant. The woman tells her partner and he leaves her.
Near the end of the film, the woman's father finds a note saying "I'm sorry", left next to her baby. She is gone and her heartbroken father petitions for change.
The film ends with the words "We approached the Government for help. They turned us away."
Seymour said the video professionally and tastefully dealt with this sensitive issue better than anything else he'd seen.
"It's shameful that the Government has ignored Mothers Matter, now the Advertising Standards Authority is saying we all have to ignore them."
"The simplest thing the Health Minister could do was come out and say 'I want every woman in New Zealand to know that you have a right to 48 hours care after giving birth'.
"A lot of mothers get bundled out and stitched out and off you go and I don't think that is acceptable and of course the worst thing is that it's the most vulnerable mothers that won't fight for their rights."
The Herald approached Little for comment this morning and is awaiting a response.
The ASA upheld all 13 complaints it received about the advertisement in part, finding the "confronting content could act as a trigger for vulnerable viewers of any age and was likely to cause harm to some consumers" and ordering it off-air.
The independent Commercial Approvals Bureau gave it a rating that allowed it to be broadcast any time except during children's programming.
However, the complaints board said the classification and placement of the advertisement were "inappropriate given the confronting subject matter and the depiction of a method of suicide", and should have been rated at least adults only.
The video was triggering for vulnerable people with "graphic use of alcohol, self-harm, suicide, emotional abuse, child neglect", the complainants said.
It had inappropriate placement at times when children would be watching, and should have been shown after the 8.30pm watershed, they said.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson told Stuff the advert "could put women in danger".
He said he urged Mothers Matter to pull the advert when it first aired, saying it was counter-productive to helping new and expectant mothers.
"I am certain it is putting women in danger. We totally support the cause Mothers Matter is advocating for ... However, I think this video crosses the line into being dangerous," Robinson said.
In a submission to the ASA Mothers Matter founder Chloe Wright said the video portrayed a discussion that "needs to be had within our communities and with transparency by the
policy makers, the Government".
Looking for support? It's available
• Call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
• Call PlunketLine 24/7 on 0800 933 922
• Depression helpline: Freephone 0800 111 757
• Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone)
• Lifeline: 0800 543 35
• Samaritans: 0800 726 666