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UK Politicians Bare All to Fight Mental Health Discrimination

UK Politicians Bare All to Fight Mental Health Discrimination

After what has been called an ‘extraordinary debate’ in the UK Parliament, laws barring people who have had severe mental health problems from being jurors, politicians or company directors are to be finally abolished.

Moving testimony from several UK politicians of their own experience of mental distress showed the devastating impact that mental health problems can have but also how the experience did not make them any less fit to hold political office. In fact, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said she was ‘absolutely sure’ her experience of depression made her go on to become a ‘much more sympathetic doctor’ and an ‘understanding MP.’

Another politician, Charles Walker, described how his obsessive compulsive disorder meant he had to do everything in sets of four, such as turning lights on and off or washing his hands. He explained ‘counting becomes very, very important’ and added that the illness had taken him to some ‘quite dark places.’

Being able to talk openly about experiencing mental distress is something that the UK group Time To Change believes could help end the detrimental stigma many of those with mental health problems face. The organization is currently asking people to help break the silence around mental health by pledging to start a conversation on the issue. As its Director, Sue Baker, explains, “we want people from all walks of life to be able to” talk about mental health and so “it’s great to see politicians making a stand.”

The upcoming changes to UK law on mental health discrimination will finally bring the country into line with the landmark Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was signed at the United Nations in 2006. Under this convention, those with disabilities such as mental health problems are ‘equal before and under the law.’

While UK progress on this issue has been severely overdue, it will hopefully act as a powerful step to improving the treatment of those who experience mental distress. As a previous campaigner at Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, I know how far there is to go before a mental health diagnosis can no longer lead to discrimination. Currently, mental health service users are routinely harassed, often left without adequate care and are sometimes abused by a mental health system that is meant to protect them when at their most vulnerable.

We need more bravery from those in power to act on behalf of those with mental health problems. But, for today at least, we can celebrate one act of courage from politicians that will make a real difference.

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36 comments

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3:18AM PST on Jan 22, 2013

They too deserve our respect

10:05PM PST on Dec 14, 2012

Very good article - thanks.

7:53PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

This is important.

4:59AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

good

9:40AM PDT on Jun 26, 2012

thanks

7:05AM PDT on Jun 21, 2012

and hopefully this will get the US to find alternatives to incarceration for the MI population released from former public mental institutions.........

7:45PM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

thanx

6:51PM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

living with mental ill health since 1997 and I have never experienced any true help or support from the NHS, my GP surgery, certain charities or from my social housing landlord - a feeling of being left in the dark or on the shelf - a forgotten class or lost soul is all I've been left with

10:34AM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

thanks

9:50AM PDT on Jun 20, 2012

This is great news. Why should a old illness effect someones career chances.

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