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Seven in ten MSPs have suffered from poor mental health

Seven in ten MSPs have suffered from poor mental health

Seven in ten MSPs taking part in an exclusive Holyrood survey said they had previously suffered from a mental health issue, including depression, anxiety and stress.

Of those, 82 per cent said poor mental health had impacted their work or personal life, with issues including insomnia, a loss of motivation or a lack of self-confidence.

Just three in ten MSPs said they had sought professional support for their mental health, such as visiting the GP, medication and attending therapy or counselling.

While over 60 per cent of respondents said their current mental health was “excellent” or “very good”, five per cent described their mental health as “not great”.

One MSP told Holyrood: “I struggle with high-pressure situations, and with retaining friendships and making new ones. I feel depressed and suicidal often.”

In terms of taking care of themselves, maintaining a sense of purpose (70 per cent), exercising (68 per cent), and sharing problems with friends and loved ones (64 per cent) were named as the top three ways of managing their mental wellbeing.

Just two per cent manage their mental health through counselling and six per cent said they take medication. Fourteen per cent said they used alcohol to manage their mental health.

Several MSPs felt it was difficult to speak out about mental health as a politician.

One said: “No one cares about the mental health of politicians, so any issues are best kept private to avoid criticism on social media.”

Another suggested there needed to be more support for people in the political arena. They said: “Politicians are human too. We have our frailties like anyone else.

“Robust support mechanisms are important and having the confidence that the services that are offered through parliamentary channels or otherwise are highly professional is essential.”

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson said: "The Parliament as an institution and employer takes its mental health responsibilities very seriously. We offer a free, 24 /7, confidential counselling and information service for all MSPs, their staff and parliamentary staff. 

"We also recently introduced a team of Mental Health First Aiders from within our own staff numbers. This is a new initiative that is part of our wider response to the pandemic and our commitment to supporting workplace wellbeing.

"We would encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to make use of these resources."

A majority of MSPs (89 per cent) agreed there was still a stigma associated with mental health issues and almost all (95 per cent) believed there needed to be greater parity between mental and physical healthcare.

Another MSP said: “There are very few options readily available to anyone suffering the early stages of poor mental health.

“If one hasn't already developed coping mechanism, there is nowhere to go. Many of the coping mechanisms that were learned in childhood that were in place previously have been stripped out of communities – especially in the school environment.

“If [a] long-term societal strategy is not considered, the mental health crisis will only increase. In my view parliament is not set up for this kind of intervention.”

A total of 77 MSPs responded to the Holyrood survey, which was carried out throughout May 2021.

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