Mental health: AMs share their experiences before debate

Four members of the Welsh assembly have shared their experiences of mental health issues before a debate about stigma and discrimination.

The cross-party group have experienced anxiety and depression and have written about them on the Time to Change Wales website which aims to alter attitudes.

One in four people think those with mental health issues should not hold office, research by the site found.

The AMs are Eluned Parrott, Llyr Huws Gruffydd, David Melding and Ken Skates.

The Time for Change Wales campaign was set up to try to end negative associations with mental health as well as discrimination faced by those who experience it.

The assembly debate was prompted by the group's research, which reported one in ten people saying they did not think those with mental health problems should have children.

For some of the AMs, it is the first time they have disclosed their illnesses to family or friends.

The blogs are highly personal and moving at times as they detail the struggle the four had not only with recovery but even more with the acceptance that they had a mental health illness.

South Wales Central Liberal Democrat Eluned Parrott, who suffered from post-natal depression following the births of both her children, said: "That fear of being labelled prevented me from seeking help and support the first time it happened.

'Suffer in silence'

"That stigma is so strong that people will suffer in silence rather than admit they have a problem. That has to be challenged.

"It is very difficult to speak about your own mental health, but my hope is that by speaking out now, it will be easier for people to talk about it in the future."

It was through writing his blog that North Wales Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Huws Gruffydd found the courage to tell his parents he had suffered from depression nearly 10 years previously, which he had come through with support from his community mental health team.

Clwyd South Labour AM Ken Skates' first encounter with generalised anxiety disorder began in his first week at Cambridge University, although he was not diagnosed with the condition for several years.

South Wales Central Conservative David Melding has had recurrent bouts of anxiety and depression, and said the key to recovery was his decision to seek counselling.

Time to Change Wales programme manager Cath Lindley said it was hugely encouraging to have the AMs speaking openly about their experiences.

"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."

The motion calling on the Welsh government to acknowledge the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems will be debated on Wednesday afternoon.

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