The Commons debate on mental health

Last Thursday saw a House of Commons debate on mental health - you can read all the speeches on the They Work for You site. Here Ashley Weinberg, editor of the recent The Psychology of Politicians (Cambridge University Press), looks back on the day's events.

The debate was important for a number of reasons. Firstly it examined an aspect of health which has traditionally been under-discussed and under-recognised in parliament – in relation to life outside work as well as inside it. Secondly it featured some MPs discussing their own mental health problems, which could help to shift attitudes towards mental health at work in the longer term. Thirdly it enabled MPs to pay tribute to the wonderful work being carried out by carers, professionals and volunteers in the mental health field. 

By discussing such challenges openly, MPs despite the fear some of them have of  stigmatisation, will not only  raise public awareness of mental health issues, but demonstrate that anyone can be affected (MPs are human too!). Perhaps most importantly for any employee experiencing psychological strain, it will send a message to organisations and employers that it is possible to have mental health problems and overcome or manage such challenges so that the individual can return to fulfil a high level of responsibility at work. In other words support from employers in this area can be well rewarded by good work

In researching the mental health of MPs over the last 20 years, I have found that the prevalence of problems among MPs is similar to that of the general working population and that such issues are more common in times of turbulence in the workplace. If our elected representatives – who make such key decisions affecting our lives -  can be encouraged to keep up  open debate and have appropriate psychological help where it is needed, we stand a much better chance of getting the support and quality of life, both inside and outside of work, which as an electorate we all deserve.