Health staff in Whanganui may be sporting pink shirts tomorrow as part of an anti-bullying message.

The Whanganui District Health Board is encouraging its staff to wear pink tops for the annual Pink Shirt Day event.

According to, the international event started in Canada in 2007 when a Year 10 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink. Two other students bought a large number of pink shirts and distributed them among their male classmates to wear in support of the victim.

"The word got out online and hundreds of students showed up in pink, some from head-to-toe, to stand together against bullying," the website said.


Whanganui's Violence Intervention Programme co-ordinator Tracey Cossey said this is the first year the health board has actively supported Pink Shirt Day, which is led by the Mental Health Foundation.

Judging by the responses she had, it wouldn't be the last, she said.

"Our staff have a heightened awareness about bullying, thanks to the strong stand our management takes on this issue," Ms Cossey said.

"Bullying is not tolerated in our workplace, so if we can support the effort to stop it happening anywhere else in our community, we will do so.

"Bullying is a significant problem which impacts on people's mental health and wellbeing."

Ms Cossey said the health board staff wanted the community to know they supported the Mental Health Foundation's call to create workplaces, schools and communities where everyone felt safe, valued and respected, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, or cultural background. A number of other groups including the Women's Network, Jigsaw, and Supporting Families are also getting behind the cause.