Stressed MPs to get mental health clinic after growing number report suffering depression and anxietyPoliticians say discrimination over mental health makes it hard for them to talk to GPs in their constituencies
Ben Spencer and Emine Sinmaz
02:02 GMT, 14 February 2013
02:03 GMT, 14 February 2013
A clinic is to be set up at Westminster to help MPs suffering from mental health problems.
Doctors in the House of Commons have reported a growing number of MPs coming to them with depression and anxiety.
Officials have approved 25,000 annual funds for specialist treatment to be offered to MPs at Westminster after they said discrimination over mental health makes it hard for them to talk to doctors in their constituencies.
MPs are to have access to mental health treatments at the House of Commons
Doctors in the House of Commons have reported a growing number of MPs coming to them with depression and anxiety
The Commons Members’ Estimate Committee – the body which oversees MPs’ working conditions – has agreed to fund treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Specialists at St Thomas’s hospital will visit the clinic and referral for in-patient treatment will also be available.
The news comes after Parliament passed new legislation on Monday that scrapped a law that says MPs automatically lose their seats if they have been sectioned for more than six months.
Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham, said: ‘It’s not easy for MPs to go to their own GP to talk about issues such as depression or anxiety.
'This is not about preferential treatment. It’s about giving MPs the opportunity to find solutions here in Westminster and have access to the types of services available to their constituents.’
Mr Jones, a former defence minister, revealed during a debate last June that he had suffered a ‘deep depression’ in 1996 and had still not told some of his family about it.
He said: ‘We in politics tend to think that if we admit to fault or failure we will be looked on disparagingly by the electorate and our peers.
‘Whether my having made this admission will mean that the possibility of any future ministerial career is blighted for ever for me, I do not know.
‘Politics is a rough old game, and I have no problem with that. Indeed, I am, perhaps, one of the roughest at times, but having to admit that you need help sometimes is not a sign of weakness.’
Charles Walker, Tory MP for Broxbourne, said he was a ‘practising fruitcake’ who had struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder for 30 years.
‘I operate to the rule of four, so I have to do everything in evens. I have to wash my hands four times and I have to go in and out of a room four times,’ he said.
‘Sometimes it is benign and often it can be malevolent. It is like someone inside one’s head just banging away. One is constantly striking deals with oneself.’
John Thurso, MP, spokesman for the Members Estimate Committee, said: ‘All conscientious employers want to help those with mental health issues and often assistance in accessing help is the first vital step.
'Being an MP is a privilege but brings particular stresses as we heard in the debate in June. It is therefore appropriate for us to take this initiative to assist Members access the help they need.’