Britain needs a few MPs like Canada’s Bob Rae to help break down stigma and taboo of mental illness
Posted on 2 February 2012 | 11:02am
I am on the sofa with Michael Portillo tonight (if you get my drift) listening to the wit and wisdom of Andrew Neil, presenter of the BBC1 This Week show.
We will doubtless be chatting banks and bankers, Dave and Ed, and all the stuff you’d expect of a political programme looking at some of the week’s big issues.
But on the back of my publishing The Happy Depressive, the programme asked me to make a little film to set up a discussion with Michael and my fellow depressive and Time to Change campaigner Ruby Wax on the subject of mental illness and public life.
It is not a new subject for me and my argument will be familiar to regular visitors here – that there is stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness, that public figures speaking out about it helps break it down, but that public figures tend not to because of the stigma and taboo … and so the vicious circle keeps on turning.
When I tweeted about it this morning, a Candadian follower called Mike Gibbs reminded me of his country’s liberal leader Bob Rae, the ex-Premier of Ontario, who has been open about his own battles with depression, and has led other Canadian politicians to similar openness. Canada’s PM Stephen Harper also made a powerful speech on the subject following the suicide of one of his MPs, Dave Batters.
So as doubtless some of you may be fed up of hearing about me on the subject, today’s blog is given over henceforth to Susan Delacourt, a Canadian journalist, writing last November about Bob Rae.I make the point tonight that whilst I understand MPs fearing being open about having mental health problems, I have found nothing but understanding from both public and media. It looks to me like Bob Rae has a similar experience.
With thanks to her and Mike Gibbs, and above all perhaps to Bob Rae, here is her piece, and a powerful speech by Mr Rae. And here is another piece Susan has kindly sent me, more broadly on the subject of depression and politics in Canada.