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Mind call for action as MPs are forced to hide mental health problems

New research funded by mental health charity Mind shows one in five MPs have experience of a mental health problem, but fear of stigma has prevented them from disclosing the issues. An anonymous questionnaire was conducted and completed by 94 MPs, 100 Lords and 151 parliamentary staff, it has revealed that:  

  • 27% had personal experience of a mental health problem including 19% of MPs, 17% of Peers, 45% of staff
  • 94% had family or friends who have experienced a mental health problem
  • 86% of MPs said their job was stressful 
  • 1 in 3 said work-based stigma and the expectation of a hostile reaction from the media and public prevented them from being open about mental health issues.

Why the non-disclosure? A huge factor is that current laws force MP’s to give up their seat for life if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Responding to the research Mental Health campaigners have called for a scrapping of these rules.  Campaigners argue that the laws are inconsistent with the protection offered by other disability laws, leaving the mentally ill open to legally sanctioned discrimination. Challenging the stigma of mental health is high on the agenda of mental health charities, this would be a high profile example of the right approach to the issues.

Sandra Gidley MP said: "Greater openness at Westminster about mental health problems would have a significant impact in challenging stigma and discrimination. When the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik publicly disclosed his experience of depression, it did not affect his popularity. He went on to be re-elected and proved that people who have experienced mental health problems can recover and manage a challenging job." 

The All Party Parliamentary Group who conducted the research made the following recommendations:

  • the urgent need to repeal laws that prevent people with experience of mental health problems from standing for Parliament
  • a review of laws that force MPs to automatically lose their seat if sectioned under the Mental Health Act for six months
  • encourage MPs and Peers to be more open about their experiences of mental health problems and to introduce a protocol that would support individuals to be transparent about dealing with mental health issues in public life 
  • ensure that MPs, Peers and staff have the opportunity to undertake mental health awareness training  
  • ensure that the health check offered to MPs includes a discussion with a relevantly trained clinician on mental health issues.

Ends

Posted By

Asif Yusuf


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