AMs from all four parties have spoken of experiencing mental health problems in a series of highly personal blog posts.
Their blogs come ahead of a landmark debate in the Senedd today which calls on the Welsh Government to acknowledge the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.
Eluned Parrott AM, Ken Skates AM, David Melding AM and Llyr Huws Gruffydd AM have written about periods of mental ill health in blog entries on the Time to Change Wales (TTCW) website.
TTCW is a service user-led campaign aiming to reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The campaign, which is funded for three years by Big Lottery Fund, Comic Relief and the Welsh Government, is being supported by leading Welsh mental health charities Gofal, Hafal and Mind Cymru.
For some of the AMs, today is the first time they have disclosed their illnesses to friends or family. In their candid blogs they talk about Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), depression and post-natal depression. Many of the issues discussed in the blogs, such as whether to disclose illness to employers or family, the fear of prejudice and the symptoms experienced, will be familiar to the one in four people who experience a mental health problem each year.
The move follows research by TTCW in which one in four respondents said people with mental health problems should not be allowed to hold public office. One in ten said that people with mental health problems should not be allowed to have children.
The motion debated at the Senedd recognises that people with mental health issues play significant roles in society, work across a range of sectors and make important contributions to the economy. It calls on the Welsh Government to support the TTCW campaign and demonstrate a commitment to ending mental health stigma and discrimination.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths AM said: “We all have a role to play in ending the stigma around mental illness and key to that is talking about mental health issues. I am proud to see the Welsh Assembly leading by example and offer my personal thanks to those Members from all parties who are taking this step and talking about their own experiences.”
Cath Lindley, Time to Change Wales Programme Manager, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see our elected representatives in Wales speaking openly about their own experiences of mental illness. Too many people are still afraid to talk about mental health, which reinforces the stigma that can be such a barrier to socialising, returning to work or seeking treatment. Many people say that the experience of stigma and discrimination can be worse than the symptoms of their illnesses.
“This has been a big step for the Assembly Members, given the negative attitudes that persist – some have yet to tell friends or family. I would encourage everyone to read the blogs they have written for the Time to Change Wales website. They show that people with mental health problems can and do recover. I hope that all AMs will support the motion in the Assembly today.”
The AMs blogs can be read at http://www.timetochangewales.org.uk/blog