More than three-quarters of MPs in the UK face struggles with their mental health, a new report has found.
The study, published by the BMJ, found that 42% of British MPs who responded to its survey had “less than optimal mental ill health”, while 34% had “probable mental ill health”.
Only 24% of those surveyed showed “no evidence of probable mental ill health”.
These findings suggest that MPs are more susceptible to mental wellbeing issues than the general public or those in comparable occupational groups, the BMJ noted.
A majority of MPs also did not know how to access mental health support at Parliament, with 77% of survey respondents unaware of options offered by the in-house Parliamentary Health and Well-being Service.
All 650 MPs with seats in the House of Commons were invited to take part in the anonymous online survey, which was conducted in December 2016, but only 146 MPs (23%) took part.
The BMJ highlighted the low response rate in its discussion and suggested that it could be due to ongoing stigma toward mental health issues, as well as concerns for privacy when working in the public eye.
“In an ever more hostile media environment, poor mental health can be regarded as a factor limiting politicians in their capacities,” the study said.
“Stigma and self-stigma about mental health appear to remain a powerful barrier to seeking help and support among Members of the UK House of Commons.”
Dr Dan Poulter MP, a lead co-author of the study, said: “This is the first study of its kind to start to evaluate the mental health and well-being of UK parliamentarians.”
“It suggests a high level of mental distress among MPs and raises important issues about how we can better support the people making and scrutinising the laws that run our country, who experience poor mental health.”
Nicole Votruba, another lead co-author, said she was “concerned” to see how few MPs knew about the availability of the mental health service offered to them.
She added: “The extent of stigma among MPs, which our results indicate, is startling and seems out of step with increasing public awareness of mental health.”