Lisa MacLeod clarifies tweet some saw as critical of youth mental health website

Lisa MacLeod clarifies tweet some saw as critical of youth mental health website

Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod has clarified a tweet she posted on Sunday that some mental health professionals took as a criticism of Jack.org, a youth-created online platform that aims to help young people talk openly about mental health issues.

On Sunday, MacLeod issued a tweet with a link to a story on Jack.org, which describes itself as "Canada's only charity training and empowering young people to revolutionize mental health."

MacLeod's tweet said: "This platform is horrible for mental health." 

The Jack.org story included as a link in MacLeod's tweet was a personal story written by 29-year-old Kenzie Brenna. Her story praised Jack.org's Be There initiative, which is an online resource aimed at helping young people recognize and support someone struggling with mental health.

Brenna's story opens with short biography, in which she says she "uses social media as a transparency tool, encouraging those in her community to find boldness within themselves, cultivate vulnerability, love fearlessly and live their truth."

After CBC News called for comment on Tuesday MacLeod issued a clarification on Twitter saying her original tweet was directed at Twitter as a platform, not Jack.org.

"I was referring to the platform of Twitter as being terrible for mental health," she said.

"Misconstruing this as an attack on @jackdotorg is a perfect example of why Twitter can be so harmful," she wrote. "I have been open about my own struggles and know how important these organizations are."

Interpretation

But MacLeod's clarification came long after many people had posted comments confounded by her initial tweet. 

Jack.org replied to MacLeod's original tweet with its own twitter thread, saying their platform was developed in partnership with young people and has "received remarkably positive feedback from doctors." 

Their tweet also invited MacLeod to talk to them if she had any concerns about Jack.org: "We're open to any constructive feedback you may have for us." 

A handful of mental health professionals also interpreted MacLeod's tweet as a critique of Jack.org including Dr. Javeed Sukhera, president of the Ontario Psychiatric Association.

"I think there is an onus of responsibility on any sitting minister, especially one with such a platform as Ms. MacLeod, to be very careful about how they use Twitter and to ensure that if they're Tweeting about something they do so responsibly and in ways that are not cryptic," said Sukhera.

Jack.org spokesman Jesse Hayman said MacLeod's original tweet caught him off guard, because it lacked context. 

"I think it just goes to highlight the importance of being careful about what we communicate and what we say," he said. "Social media can make that very difficult because things blow up so quickly. Someone in a corporation or at the government level has more reasonability to be careful with what we say and how we say it." 

Jack.org was founded by Eric Windeler, who lost his son Jack to suicide. 

The organization has since opened chapters across Canada. Jack.org also hosts talks and youth summits to address youth mental health issues.