Just because you stumble and fall, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of you.
That was among the messages delivered by Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross to several hundred Year 11-13 pupils at Elim Christian College recently.
Ross was invited to speak to the students as part of the school’s ‘Real Talk’ series which is designed to prepare students for life beyond school.
The MP was interviewed on stage by Elim principal Murray Burton and was asked questions including why he got back into politics after falling out with the National Party’s leadership late last year.
He also talked about his well-publicised mental health challenges and about how hard it was going through such an experience in the public eye.
In the weeks following, Ross said hundreds of people reached out to him to share their own stories of depression and suicide.
He said those people are what inspired his return to politics.
“I felt if I just disappeared and didn’t go back to my job, I was letting those people down,” he said.
Ross said he wanted to continue to be “a voice for this community, but also a voice for people who have suffered mental health challenges.”
He said he wants to show people that mental illness doesn’t define you.
“Just because you’ve been through some difficult times doesn’t mean you can’t come back and do your job, and be a father and be a husband, and be a Member of Parliament.
“Whatever your role in life is, just because you stumble and fall down, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of you.”
In December and January he felt like he was one of the most hated people in the country, he said.
But he said it was the kindness of the community that turned it around for him.
“When you knock on doors and talk to real people and they’re kind and compassionate and they give you the benefit of the doubt, that makes you feel good. I don’t feel alone.”
Ross said he now wants to show others that they too are not alone.