In March the All Party Group on Mental Health launched an Election Compact on Mental Health, which Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg all agreed to sign up to. Among the guests at the event was Ruby Wax, comedian and mental health campaigner (pictured above).
This unprecedented initiative demonstrates a cross-party commitment to challenging negative attitudes around mental illness and shutting stigmatising language out of politics and specifically in the forthcoming General Election Campaign.
In 2008 the APPG on Mental Health published the ‘Mental Health in Parliament’ report, based on the results of an anonymous survey. MPs, Peers and staff responded overwhelmingly with the unfortunate view that openness about mental health in Parliament was potentially damaging to individuals, leaving them subject to attack from opponents and the media.
As such, a key recommendation of the report was to produce an Election Compact on Mental Health to agree a protocol that would support anyone in being open about a mental health problem during the General Election. It is hoped that this non-party political Compact will send a powerful symbolic message to the public and act as a beacon for good practice during the election period.
Click here to see a copy of the Compact and the leaders' signatures.
Below is a copy of the press relases I sent out to local press following the launch:
LOCAL MP SPEARHEADS INITIATIVE ON MENTAL HEALTH
Party Leaders support ban on mental health slurs during election campaign
A radical new initiative designed to stop politicians using opponents' mental health problems to win political advantage during the election campaign has won support from Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and MPs of all persuasions.
The Election Compact on Mental Health, the first of its kind in the UK, was launched on Monday, 22nd March at Westminster by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health and was the culmination of process initiated by local MP, Lynne Jones and supported by a coalition made up of key organisations in the mental health sector. The Speaker, John Bercow, and comedian, Ruby Wax, a long time campaigner on mental health, were also in attendance, along with representatives from all the political parties.
It is hoped that the Compact will make inroads towards stamping out mental health discrimination among politicians and encourage the next generation of MPs to be open about their mental health without fear of reprisal from opponents and the media.
Under the terms of the Compact, politicians vow::
- not to stigmatise, slur or discriminate against anyone with a mental health problem, even when out canvassing
- to challenge negative attitudes towards mental health, including "canteen culture harassment" where innocent banter can cause offence
- not to speculate about the mental health of any prospective politician
- represent the interests of all constituents regardless of their mental health
Lynne Jones, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak and joint chair of the All Party Group, said: ”I am delighted that party leaders have signed up to the Election Compact, which represents an important step in tackling the entrenched stigma associated with mental health.”
Notes to editors
1. The Compact is attached.
2. The Compact was drawn up following a recommendation in the 2008 report Mental Health in Parliament, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health.