Politicians – just like us they suffer with mental health
Imagine if you will a world where critics and a hungry media wait almost on standby for you to fall. Add to that the feeling of knowing that if you say, do, look or react to anything it will be interpreted, extrapolated and subjected to scrutiny. How would you cope? Despite your best intentions, you are always viewed cynically and generally unsympathetically. Welcome to the world of the politician. A real live reality show where unlike on TV, evictions can take place every five years.
John Ryan Comedian and Mental Health Awareness Trainer
We all feel pressure and have different coping strategies. There are many other occupations that are greeted with derision. Research shows that if you can connect with people you will build relationships that will positively benefit your wellbeing. How do you do that as an MP?
You wake up early it’s a new day. You may be in a hotel room in which case you are away from home comforts. What do you wear? A comfy top, your favorite jumper, some smart-casual trousers. No, wait there may be photographers. How will that seem “The government is in crisis and Politician X” is dressing like a delivery driver”or “Does this casual outfit reflect a serious Member of parliament”
Okay, forget the casual look try a nice blue shirt “Labour minister wearing tory colours! Okay, forget it a white shirt with a red tie “Tory with a socialist heart”. The papers, social media, the news who knows what they will make of it. Neutral colours and a bland outfit that will be acceptable. “Good morning Minister” you are greeted by the doorman. “Good morning” you smile back.“Cheerful minister out of touch with Public mood”. Ignore him and it is a case of“Dour Politician doesn’t look happy”. It can’t be easy being scrutinised twenty-four hours a day.
The five steps to wellbeing suggest being active! Where possible take a walk, ride a bike get some vitamin D from being outdoors. Be Mindful and take notice of the world around you. How do you do that when the person coming toward you may wish you harm. The memory of Jo Cox flashes through your head on a daily basis. The Paparazzi will follow waiting for you to slip, trip or fail to shake a hand thrust at you. How do you savour the moment when you are trying not to sneeze for fear that a twisted expression is captured on film and later used out of context the next time a high profile bill is being discussed. ‘Sneering minister mocks the disabled’
The NHS suggests you “try something new, rediscover an old hobby or sign up for a course”. How does that work if you are an MP? Can you imagine the furore if the PM took a cookery course? ‘May learns to make soufflé while her constituents attend foodbanks”. How About another recommendation, “learn to play an instrument”.
You can almost see the headlines “Jeremy fiddles while the economy burns’. When are you meant to find the time?
The five steps suggest “doing something nice for a friend or stranger” well you have devoted your life to politics. If that isn’t helping others what is. You have probably sacrificed family life, privacy, holidays and your health. You are in an occupation where you make decisions that affect your community, your city, your country and often the whole world. You live in a bubble isolated from support networks. You can’t confide in anyone for fear of a leak or of a rumour being sourced back to you.
But surely they get paid a lot is the counter-argument. No amount of money will protect your mental wellbeing if you are subjected to constant pressure, criticism and scrutiny. “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” as the saying goes. Ask yourself this do we really want cold emotionless people representing us?Do we really want people who are out of touch not just with the rest of us, but with themselves? No, we want them to be like us. But if they are going to be like us then they are going to suffer from Mental Health issues too.
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