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Four MPs will make a lot of difference to Time to Change campaign on mental health

Posted on 15 June 2012 | 5:06am

As promised, here is the piece I did last night for The Independent on the two MPs who spoke in the Commons about their mental health problems, who were later followed by Sarah Wollaston and Andrew Leadsom.

I know many people with mental health problems who say they can deal with their symptoms, but what they find really difficult is the stigma which leads to discrimination in the workplace.

They feel ashamed about having depression and fear their employer wouldn’t understand if they can’t come into work.

If they had to take time off because they had cancer or a broken arm or had to go into hospital for an operation, everyone would understand.

I was very lucky when I had a breakdown in the 1980s because my old employer offered me a job when I had recovered and I made the decision then always to be open. I have never regretted that.

We all have physical and mental health and all of us have some days that are better than others.

But those who struggle with mental illnesses also have to face the taboo associated with that.

I was on my way back from Ireland, closely following all the Twitter activity about David Cameron’s appearance at the Leveson inquiry, when I noticed to my surprise that mental health was trending on Twitter.

I then received a very excited text from Sue Baker, who runs the Time for Change campaign to combat the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.

She and I have made speeches and written articles about the need for more people in public life to raise the issue.

So I was delighted that Kevan Jones and Charles Walker have spoken so frankly about their own experiences and greatly appreciate that Nicky Morgan secured this vital Commons debate.

Part of the campaign’s aim is to try to get to the position where people feel they can be as open about their mental health as about their physical wellbeing.

There used to be a taboo about speaking about the ‘big C’ – cancer. That has been swept away and no-one would say treating cancer was not a priority.

Cuts are happening to mental health services with both the NHS and the voluntary sector under financial pressure.

That is happening against the historical background of mental health being a Cinderella service.

That has to change – and having MPs being so open about their own issues will help to build the political support necessary to stop mental health services being pushed to the back of the queue.

Alastair Campbell, former director of communications and strategy at Downing Street, is an Ambassador for Time to Change.

  • Ehtch

    Hope Sue Baker doesn’t mind me saying this, but when she was playing she looked like a right misery guts, as if she didn’t want to be on court, each corner of her mouth almost touching her bootlaces.
    Now I am not really saying anything here, or am I?, but I didn’t recognise her when she became successful on telly – she seemed so happy and jolly. Maybe the pressure of sharp edged competitive sport didn’t suit her psyche, or something.

    She must have a story, that is if it is not in any possible autobiog book she has wrote, which I have not read. But well done Sue for support in this becoming less taboo subject.

    I am on about the same Sue Baker here, am I, I hope I am?

    google – BIG FLIPPING WHOOPS!! SUE BARKER! no we are certainly not, but I will leave this comment for extremely amusing reasons, comedy humour reasons, confusion reigns in my head.

    Still think the ex-tennis playing version of SB was a misery guts though, when she was on court in her heyday. : )

  • Ehtch

    Big rugby marathon starting later this Sat again Alastair, starting at 3AM with Scotland in Fiji, on ESPN, which I will watch, AHEM!, on a pirate Kiwi online channel, some kosher, some apparently not, which winds Murdoch’s mob up, but who cares. And carry’s on with paddies/kiwis, then Wales/Oz then Saffa/English then Argies /France, then if I haven’t fallen into a coma, USA/Georgie, which will be very interesting. The u-20 Wales vee the Kiwis then on Sun.

    Blimey is all I have to say.

  • Michele

     I think you might be confusing tennis player Sue Barker with the person AC is talking about Ehtch !!  No ‘r’ 🙂

  • Michele


    durr …… have just read further down your post …..

  • Ehtch

    Sue Barker being interviewed at the end of this match way back ’77, looks sort of jolly I suppose, but she lost though,

    Virginia Wade, the SA taught turned back english won it that year, the Wimbs centenary and all that, I do believe.

  • Ehtch

    he-he-he caught you. But I did get my Sue’s mixed up, and got the wrong end of the stick totally. My imagination went into fantasyland, as usual, brain in reverse gear.

    But I left the comment, for a laugh, when I realised half way through I was talking pants.

  • Ehtch

    oh bollocks, part two, this time a kiwi ref that completely committed daylight robbery against Cymru – penalised Wales when it suited him, especially the last one at the end when it wasn’t a collapsed maul by us, Oz went down. THE WORLD IS AGAINST US, and do our english friends help, do eff they do! Shit heads all around.

    Ah well, Cymru were easily the moral victors on the field of play today, and Ozzies are complete blonde haired all I have to say. Jeezuz, what us welsh have to put up with, you have no concept.. Pissed off I am, you might have noticed.

  • Ehtch

    rubbish loss again by the english, good enough for them, they HATE us, the RFU, the little small minded shits, help Southern Hemishere sides against us any chance they get, the c%^^&**nts!!!!!!!

  • Ehtch

    …looks like one of those lost BBC tapes they kept losing, Doctor Who and Dads Army, when Sue is getting powdered up for interview at 25:15 in the video above.

    What makes you think I had the hots for Sue, ey? But let me say, at late night highlights of Wimbledon then, I did whack my tennis bat, with Sue, when I was fifteen…. : )

  • Ehtch

    oops 25:15 it should have been, a couple of minutes longer….

  • Hattie-leach

    My mother had severemental health problems and I can relate to all that is mentioned about the HUGE taboo circulating meantal health; especially bullying in the workplace. Having experienced first hand the dramatic lack of funding, I think it’s high time the story changed and as a society, mental health became an important enought issue to invest in.

  • Michele

    This is the programme I’ve mentioned somewhere about periods of depression maybe being therapeutic :

    There was also a discussion on Moral Maze this evening :

    Both on iplayer

  • Feel ashamed at how easy low mood is to remove, is especially true when are able to afford the foods that remove low mood. 

    If only I had those funds to give permanent removal of mental health issues many created by the Government that spent first asked questions later & gave medico powers beyond that what is fit and proper. Support choice regardless of mental capacity.