A NORTH-EAST MP was flooded with messages of support and congratulations after bravely revealing his battle against depression, he said tonight.
Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, received dozens of emails and text messages – many from fellow sufferers – within hours of speaking about his struggle in the Commons chamber.
The former defence minister was close to tears as he told fellow MPs he had suffered from deep depression in the mid-1990s, because of work and personal issues, but had not sought help.
Loading article content
He appealed for a change of culture that would make it easier for other people, including fellow MPs, to reveal their mental health problems, without it being viewed as a sign of weakness.
Mr Jones told MPs: “This is the first time I have spoken about this. Indeed, some people in my family do not know about what I am going to talk about today. Like a lot of men, I tried to deal with it myself – you do not talk to people.
I hope you realise, Mr Speaker, that what I am saying is very difficult for me.
“I have thought very long and hard about this and did not actually decide to do this until I just put my notes down. It is hard, because you do not always recognise the symptoms. It creeps up very slowly.
“Also, we in politics tend to think that if we admit to fault or failure we will be looked on disparagingly by the electorate and our peers.
“Whether my having made this admission will mean that the possibility of any future ministerial career is blighted for ever for me, I do not know.”
During the debate, Dr Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP and a GP, disclosed she suffered suicidal feelings after having a baby, at what should have been the “happiest time of my life”. And Charles Walker, a fellow Tory, said he had suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder for the past 31 years, which he described as an “internal Tourettes”.
It meant he had to do everything in sets of four, whether it be turning off light switches or washing his hands. The illness had taken him to some “quite dark places”, he said.
The debate heard that mental health cost the UK economy £105bn a year, yet it was a Cinderella service – poorly funded, compared to other conditions, and not spoken about enough.
Afterwards, Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central, pledged to introduce a backbench bill to scrap “archaic” laws, relating to mental health.
They prevented mentally- ill people running firms, becoming school governors and undertaking jury service – and forced MPs to lose their seats, if sectioned for more than six months.