Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MPs and Mental Health - in praise of politicians

Whilst David Cameron had his day before the judge last week, his fellow MPs were doing something quite amazing. During a debate on mental health, several of them spoke in public for the first time of their struggles with mental illness - depression, OCD and the like.

Kevan Jones, MP for Durham North, said he had "thought very long and hard" about whether to speak publicly about his mental health problems.

"In 1996 I suffered from quite a deep depression related to work issues and other things going on in my life at that moment," he said in the Commons.

"Like a lot of men, you try and deal with it yourself. You don't talk to people. I just hope you realise, Mr Speaker, what I'm saying is very difficult right now."

He said it was important to talk about mental health in Parliament because "we are... in politics designed to admit that somehow if you admit fault or frailty you are going to be looked upon in a disparaging way, in terms of both the electorate and your peers as well".

He "didn't know" whether his admission would affect how people viewed him or his career prospects but added: "I actually don't care now because if it helps other people who have suffered from depression in the past - good."

Full marks to our politician for this one, it's great to hear of the positive feedback they've received, and it's starting to feel like things are changing in our attitudes to mental illness, that we're becoming more understanding and sympathetic. A Private Members Bill is due soon to tackle discrimination against people with mental health conditions.

Channel 4 have a season of programmes on mental health coming up,  something which the BBC did a couple of years ago.

But all this has to be seen in the light of yesterdays report into mental health services in the UK, which was scathing in it description of what's offered to the mentally ill at the moment. I was startled  by the stat that half of all ill-health in the under 65s is mental illness, and the report claims that 3/4 are not getting the proper treatment. Though sadly that's not surprising - my experience at local level is that GPs are far less clued up on mental illness than they are on physical illness, and local specialist services are under-resourced. So all of the above is a start, but there is a long way to go.

No comments:

Post a Comment