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pi magazine 716 | politics

Should more MPs open up about mental health?

I

n 2008, a confidential survey showed that 1 in 5 MPs had suffered mental health issues in the past – a statistic markedly similar to the wider figure of 1 in 4 among the general public. But the fact is that as accurate as this figure may be, we don’t know who these people are. The 1 in 5 – roughly 130 elected officials are faceless. That is unfortunate. While issues to do with mental health are becoming more openly discussed, there are still far too many people who feel it is something to be ashamed of and to help them, we need relatable role models to enforce positive messages rather than ones of fear, stigma, or silence. I believe that MP’s can occupy this role. On the 14th June, 2012, a remarkable event occurred in the House of Commons, one that’s still worth discussing four years later. On this day, four MPs spoke openly about their mental health issues, and how important this problem is to the country at large. Kevan Jones, a Labour MP, gave an emotional speech in which he highlighted the issues MP’s face with this disclosure. While actors tend to attract sympathy for these revelations, people working in Parliament most generally do not – after all, every five years a large proportion of the public decide whether these people should keep their jobs. Who’d want to disclose a history of mental illness in the Commons – a toxic hive of theatrical insults, shouting and degradation? So a speech that should have focused markedly on mental health spent a good deal of time

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explaining the possible detriments of the decision to disclose said medical information. Indeed, Mr Jones hinted himself that his career could be “blighted” by the speech.

Millennials tend to be far more prepared to discuss mental health, but millennials also have a tendency not to vote. Kevan Jones’ statement made me question whether our politicians need to be ‘tough’. The answer is complicated. Although politics has moved on, and positive stances on mental health are often used as canvassing opportunities for parties, a large part of society has not followed suit. The Commons, for one, is still very ‘masculine’ (less than a third of MPs are female), and it is often men who struggle most with openly discussing their mental health. Furthermore, a significant portion of the electorate still holds ‘traditional’ values that discourage talking about mental health, believing it to be something to be ashamed of, or worse, non-existent. Millennials tend to be far more prepared to discuss mental health, but millennials also have a tendency not to vote. So politicians like Mr. Jones are led to the lion’s den. Yet the reception to his speech was warm, considerate, and in praise. To me this shows that the Commons is prepared to answer sensitive questions in a sensitive manner – and, if it continues to do so, we will gain valuable ground in battling this damaging stigma. An energetic Charles Walker, a Tory MP, followed up with a humorous speech about his OCD. Good-natured laughs and admiration followed throughout, showing that the

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Pi Magazine, Issue 716 - The Mind  

Our Second Issue of the 2016/17 academic year is focused on 'The Mind'. We delve into topics such as mental health, neurological disease, an...

Pi Magazine, Issue 716 - The Mind  

Our Second Issue of the 2016/17 academic year is focused on 'The Mind'. We delve into topics such as mental health, neurological disease, an...

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