Thursday, July 31, 2008
Mental health survey stuns British Parliament
From Russia Today
A survey published in Britain suggests that one in five members of the British Parliament has suffered from stress-related mental health problems. The report also criticises a law which forces MPs to give up their seats for life if they're treated in a psychiatric hospital.
“‘Idiots and lunatics’ may be given the right to stand for Parliament”, exclaims Britain’s The Telegraph - and that is exactly the kind of headline that members of the British Parliament feared.
A confidential survey of MPs and peers suggests that one in five parliamentarians suffers from a mental illness.
Professor Dinesh Bughra, who’s behind the survey, says the Westminster figures are surprisingly high.
“What was quite fascinating was that over 90 per cent in each group admitted they knew somebody in their family or friends who had a mental illness - which is a remarkably high number. We did a similar survey with the general population in 2007 which showed that 67 per cent of general population knew somebody with mental illness - so that is significantly higher than that,” said Dinesh Bughra, Dean of Royal College of Psychiatrists.
86 per cent of those questioned said it was caused by the stress of their public lives and they fear disclosing their struggles because of stigma and discrimination.
But Doctor Howard Stoate, an MP himself, who's also a General Practitioner, believes that many other jobs are equally stressful.
“I think it’s very concerning that almost 20 per cent of the MPs who took part in this survey said that they’d had significant mental health issues, particularly stress and depression. But what was more worrying was that they were unable to talk to anyone about it because they felt there might be repercussions to them in their jobs,” said Dr. Howard Stoate, Labour MP.
In old Elizabethan times ‘lunatics and idiots’ were banned from becoming MPs ‘in their non-lucid intervals’. The ancient laws also banned anyone sectioned under the Mental Health Act from putting themselves forward for election even if they had fully recovered - and required MPs to give up their seat for life if they were sectioned for six months.
Surprisingly those laws are still in place.
Many, including Professor Bughra, believe they now outdated.
“It should be changed because it compares mental illness with things like lunacy and idiocy, and it is nothing like that. And I think one way of de-stigmatising mental illness is to put it at par. If you look at Winston Churchill, he described his depression very effectively and very clearly and yet he was a very successful leader,” said Dinesh Bughra.
Still, the results of the survey provoke a mixed reaction from the public.
”It’s horrible - how can they run a country if they have mental health problems?” said a passer-by in London.
”I don’t have a problem with that - it is more of their personal problem and they have to deal with it,” said another one.