Despite there being accurate information more available to the general public, it appears that stigma of mental illness continues to affect the lives of millions of Britains, including the powerful and influential. A recent survey has found that 1 in 5 British MPs have experienced a mental health problem but fear to disclose this because of stigma and discrimination:
An anonymous questionnaire completed by 94 MPs, 100 Lords and 151 parliamentary staff 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.
The report is critical of the law forcing MPs to give up their seat for life if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for six months. By comparison, if an MP is physically incapable of working for six months due to a serious illness they would not be forced to stand down. The majority of MPs who responded thought this rule was discriminatory and urgently needs to be changed.
Challenging and changing the mainstream response to those who experience mental health problems involves persistence, courage and clout. Changing the law to reduce discrimination is part of this.
A compassionate view involves recognising that these problems and the stigma attached to them are not the issues of faceless “other people”:if not directly experienced by yourself, then in all likelihood it is a family member, friend, or workmate who struggles with this. There is a good op-ed piece here about the survey, and it is worth checking out the comments below – the number of jokes at the expense of those experiencing mental health problems AND who happen to be MPs suggests we still have a long way to go as a society.