Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Iris Robinson ‘will find great relief’ in talking openly of depression

Iris Robinson, the Democratic Unionist MP for Strangford, is quitting politics due to her battle with mental illness.

Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell has said he hopes Iris Robinson will one day consider joining the fight to end mental health discrimination.

Tony Blair’s former chief Press Secretary was speaking following the announcement by the DUP MP on Monday that she was quitting politics because she suffered from serious “bouts of depression”.

Mr Campbell is among many individuals and groups who have voiced their support for the decision by the wife of the First Minister to speak openly about her battle with mental illness.

Mr Campbell, who has been very candid about his own experience with the illness, said he understood the turmoil felt by Mrs Robinson over the years as he too had battled with the condition.

He suffered a breakdown in 1986 while working as a reporter.

“I suspect Iris Robinson will find, and I hope that this will be the case, a great relief in that she has now been upfront and open about this,” he said.

“I also suspect she will find that the vast bulk of people will be incredibly supportive and sympathetic, and I hope once things calm down for her a bit she will also get engaged in campaigning on this issue because I think it is very important.”

UTV presenter Lynda Bryans, who was diagnosed with depression 15 years ago just before the birth of her first son, said it will hopefully open up a debate about mental health and why there is huge ignorance about it.

Liz Main, a former adviser for mental health body Time to Change, said Mrs Robinson’s resignation was both a “small step and a big step”.

“She is the first MP in the UK to come out and say I am stepping down because of depression that I know of. A lot of people have admitted depression after they have stepped down but she is the first person to make that link.”

It is estimated that one in four people in the UK suffer from mental health problems.

And according to a recent survey carried out by mental health charity Stand To Reason, one in five MPs in the UK have experienced a mental health problem.

It is understood that Mrs Robinson will not contest the next Westminster election and is expected to hand over her Stormont seat to a party colleague.

Last night DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said Mrs Robinson had “always represented the Strangford constituency with both dedication and determination”.

He added: “We wish our colleague well for the future.”

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