Psychologist Proposes Extra Mental Health Support for Stressed MPs

By Helen Holmes on April 25, 2012

Being exposed to high levels of stress, members of the Parliament may need extra support to carry out their work, says a psychologist from the Salford University who has been studying the wellbeing of MPs for the past 20 years.

On an interview with BBC, Dr Ashley Weinberg said that four in ten MPs have had regular mental and health checkups. To make sure that their jobs are not proving too stressful, MPs may need to undergo annual mental health checks, he added. The doctor pointed out that carrying heavy workload and being apart from their families may affect the politicians’ abilities to perform their job. During his research, he found that politicians suffer from psychological strain and symptoms like problems sleeping, tension, increased irritability, anxiety, loss of confidence, etc.

According to Dr Ashley Weinberg, even the Prime Minister must not be excluded from the checks. He said that David Cameron should also have regular ‘behind the scene’ check for his mental health. He pointed out although all kinds of jobs have certain level of stress; MPs are required to make decisions that have very high stakes.

“MPs have jobs with a high level of responsibility and as such they should have annual check-ups".

But Dr Ira Madan, an occupational health specialist in London, who is also the doctor who monitors MPs’ health, doesn’t see the need for it. She’s been providing three-yearly medical screening for the members of the Parliament and found that around 40% take the offer. She added that both ministers and MPs are provided with health checks which usually take place in the House of Commons and that there are 50-70 screenings done annually.

Politicians carry the burden of deciding what’s right for their constituents. Every day, they are faced with different kinds of stressful situations that they need to address. Dr Ashley Weinberg explained that politicians lack social support.  "We need to discover whether MPs are suffering from extreme stress, depression or anxiety. In any working population twenty per cent may well be." He said.

New MPs Seem to Have Unexpected Hit

Dr Ashley Weinberg also suggests that new MPs be given special attention when it comes to mental health screening. During their first year, MPs are highly exposed to high levels of stress and therefore, they should be well-informed about the nature of their work. He also suggests that the annual test should include testing how well MPs believe in themselves, their ability to render judgement or decisions, their emotional state, and if their stress level is affecting their sleeping patterns.

"We want our MPs to have the best psychological health’, said Dr Ashley Weinberg. For political leaders, regular mental health check should be done but not that the public know about it, he added.

Do you think MPs have had enough support in making sure that they are mentally fit to perform their duties? Or do they need extra help like what Dr Weinberg is proposing?


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