Posted by: David Cant | July 21, 2008

MPs fear stigma of mental distress

One in five MPs has experienced a mental-health problem but fears disclosing it owing to the stigma associated with mental-health issues.

Publishing the findings of an anonymous questionnaire completed by 94 MPs, 100 Lords, and 151 parliamentary staff, a new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health reveals that 27 per cent of those surveyed have personal experience of a mental-health problem, including 19 per cent of MPs, 17 per cent of Peers, and 45 per cent of staff. One in three respondents said expected hostility from the public prevented them from being open on such matters.

The report calls for a change in the law, which currently forces MPs to give up their seat for life if sectioned under the Mental Health Act for six months. By contrast, the law does not apply if an MP is physically incapable of working for six months owing to a serious illness.

Paul Farmer, from mental-health charity, Mind, said: “Repealing antiquated rules that ban MPs from returning to work after recovering from a mental-health problem would send out a clear message to all employers that discrimination should not be tolerated. This is an opportunity for Parliament to lead by example as an exemplary employer in supporting people with mental-health problems in the workplace.”

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