MP’s Encourage an attitudinal Change Regarding Mental Health Sufferers and Psychotherapy
Last month, MPs met in parliament to discuss the situation of Britain’s mental health.
Many politicians stood up and talked of the difficulties they had had with depression and other mental health issues, making a positive step forward in the acceptance that many people struggle with mental problems, and also in the fight against stygmatising people who suffer in this way.
Some of the outcomes of this debate are that laws barring people who have had severe mental health problems from jury service and from being MPs or company directors are to be abolished.
Amongst the politicians who owned up to having mental health issues was Conservative backbencher Charles Walker, who described suffering obsessive compulsive disorder for three decades; Former GP and Tory MP Sarah Wollaston talked of her depession, post-natal depression, severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts. She said, “I know what it’s like and I’m sure there are many other members of this house who will know exactly what it feels like to feel that your family would genuinely be better off without you, and to experience the paralysis that can come with severe depression”.
Andrea Leadsom, MP, also recounted her post natal depression, “It is unbelievable how awful you feel when you are sitting with your tiny baby in your arms, and your baby cries and so do you,” she said. “You can’t even make yourself a cup of tea, you just feel so utterly useless.”
The main speech of the debate came from Labour defence minister, Kevan Jones, an MP considered by his colleagues to be a tough politician. He said, “Now I am going to throw my notes away. I thought long and hard last night about whether to do this, and talk about my own mental health problems. In 1996, I suffered quite a deep depression related to work and other things going on in my life. This is the first time I have spoken about this. Indeed, some people in my family do not know about what I am going to talk about today. Like a lot of men, I tried to deal with it myself, you do not talk to people. I hope you realise, Mr Speaker, that what I am saying is very difficult for me.
I have thought very long and hard about this and did not actually decide to do this until I just put my notes down. It is hard, because you do not always recognise the symptoms. It creeps up very slowly. Also, we in politics tend to think that if we admit to fault or failure we will be looked on disparagingly by the electorate and our peers. Whether my having made this admission will mean that the possibility of any future ministerial career is blighted for ever for me, I do not know. I was a Minister in the previous Government and I think that most people on both sides of the House thought I did a reasonable job.
We have to talk about mental health issues in this place, including people in the House who have personal experience of it. As I have said, I thought long and hard last night about doing this and I did not come to a decision until I put my notes down just now. Whether it affects how people view me, I do not know; and frankly I do not care because if it helps other people who have depression or who have suffered from it in the past, then, good.
In politics we are designed to think that somehow if you admit fault or frailty you are going to be looked on in a disparaging way both by the electorate but also by your peers. Actually admitting that sometimes you need help is not a sign of weakness.
Politics is a rough old game, and I have no problem with that. Indeed, I am, perhaps, one of the roughest at times, but having to admit that you need help sometimes is not a sign of weakness. I also want to say to you, Mr Speaker, that we need to do more here to support Members with mental health issues.
As I have said, I do not know whether I have done the right thing. Perhaps I will go home tonight and think I have not, but I think I have. I hope that it does not change anyone’s view of me. Most people might think, “Christ, if it can happen to him, it might happen to anybody.” On that note, let me put on record my thanks for the opportunity to debate this issue. Let us go out and champion this issue.
Finally, let me say to every hon. Member present and to those who are not present that although being an MP is a great privilege, I have always thought that; it is a great thing that I love, it also has its stresses. Unless someone has done it, they do not know what those stresses can be personally, in terms of family, and in terms of what is expected of us in the modern technological age. A little more understanding from some parts of the media and some constituents about the pressures on the modern-day MP would be very valuable”.
Mr. Jones also stated his belief that, although medication can be an important part in the struggle against mental health problems, psychotherapy and counselling is vital.
The three psychotherapist / counsellors at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice on London’s Harley Street have worked for many years with individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health difficulties. One in four people will suffer mental health problems at some time. The public acknowledgement of this by parliament goes a long way to accepting mental difficulties as a common part of life and take away the stygma attached to seeking psychotherapy help.