Latest Holyrood survey reveals the impact of mental ill-health among parliamentarians
The proportion of MSPs who describe their mental health as “excellent” or “very good” has remained broadly unchanged since this time last year, though 68 per cent of parliamentarians have had a mental health issue at some point in their life and the vast majority of those – 85 per cent – say it impacted on their work or personal life.
In Holyrood’s latest mental health survey, which asked MSPs a series of questions about their mental wellbeing, 43 per cent of respondents described their mental health as being “very good” and 18 per cent as “excellent” against 34 per cent who described it as “fair” and five per cent who said it was “not great”.
Though a smaller number of politicians responded to the survey than this time last year – 39 against 71 – the proportions were largely the same. This time last year 43 per cent of respondents said their mental health was “very good” and 18 per cent said it was “excellent” while 34 per cent described it as “fair” and five per cent said it was “not great”.
Similarly, at that point a large proportion – 69 per cent – said they had suffered from a mental health issue at some point in their life and, of those, 82 per cent said it had impacted on their work life.
Though the results indicate that there has not been a worsening of mental health issues among people working in the parliament over the past year, the survey also highlighted that there are ongoing issues around feeling comfortable discussing mental ill-health while working in the public eye.
Among those who reported having experienced mental health issues, just 35 per cent said they had been open about that at work and, of that group, only 11 per cent had turned to their party for support.
One MSP noted that as there is “no outlet available to seek help with mental health issues” they felt that “dealing with it personally is the only option”.
Another said that even if there was an outlet they would not use it because the fear of stigma, particularly in parliamentary circles, is so high.
“Awareness and acceptance has grown and is much better in society,” the politician said, “[but] the parliament is a different place and I still view any confession of problems to my party whips as too risky. I fear they would use it against me.”
The full survey and an analysis of the results is published in the latest issue of Holyrood magazine which is out on 9 May