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Poulter's report shines a light on MPs' problems with mental health

PUBLISHED: 23:30 01 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:07 02 July 2019

Dr Dan Poulter helped compile the report into MPs' mental health. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Dr Dan Poulter helped compile the report into MPs' mental health. Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

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Members of Parliament are more likely to suffer mental health problems than most of their constituents according to a new study compiled by Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter and a top London university hospital.

Dr Poulter, who also works part-time for a London hospital specialising in mental health, worked with Kings College Hospital on the survey of his fellow MPs.

In the survey - the first ever scientific study into the mental health of MPs - questions focused on a wide range of issues from the ability to concentrate, through stress levels and capacity to cope, to perceptions of unhappiness, depression, and self-worth.

Compared to other groups of professionals and those involved in management, MPs reported higher levels of worthlessness, unhappiness, and depression.

Dr Poulter MP said: "This is the first study of its kind to start to evaluate the mental health and wellbeing of UK parliamentarians.

"It suggests a high level of mental distress among MPs and raises important issues about how we can better support the people making and scrutinising the laws that run our country, who experience poor mental health."

The survey also reveals generally low awareness among MPs of the existence of confidential parliamentary support services or how to access them.

And it highlights a low level of willingness among suffering MPs to open up about their mental health to either appointed party officials, the Whips, or to fellow parliamentarians.

Altogether 146 out of Westminster's total of 650 MPs responded to the online survey which was carried out anonymously in December 2016.

Researchers suggest that more may have responded had it not been for the persisting stigma associated with mental illness and the nature of an MP's life lived in the public eye.

Most MPs were unaware of the existing anonymous inhouse Parliamentary Health and Wellbeing Service - more than three out of four (77%) didn't know about this service.

Co-author Nicole Votruba said: "People in every kind of workplace should be able to access help when experiencing mental distress so we were concerned to discover how few MPs knew about support services."

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