Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#BellLetsTalk about mental health in politics

Connecting back to my last post, today is a big day for online, hashtag activism: #BellLetsTalk day. For every tweet tagged with the hashtag, Bell will donate 5 cents towards mental health services.

It's a good cause to raise awareness and start discussions towards mental health, but it is take a critical eye towards what is also a giant PR campaign for a huge teleco. I don't discourage people from tweeting with the hashtag, but I also encourage people to find and share some people with critical views on it, and make sure that we talk about mental health more than just one day a year.

That being said, I wanted to use the opportunity of today to discuss mental health in professional politics. Mental health issues are something that many people who work in politics experience, just like everyone does, but because of the nature of the work, people are particularly reluctant to speak out about it.

This needs to change. Politics and political staffing can be incredibly stressful and trying, as people work ridiculous hours to try and accomplish goals for a cause or a party they believe in - and a lot of the time, they aren't going to succeed thanks to the whims of the electorate. Everyone who has worked in politics has heard rumours and gossip about someone "taking personal time", "getting burnt out" or "is dealing with some stuff" or one of any other ways people avoid talking about a difficult subject. Those of us who are the activists, are the staffers, and are the politicians themselves have a responsibility to be more open and more supportive with each other and to help others who are facing the struggle with mental health issues.

Bob Rae deservedly won praise for talking about his experiences with mental health and we need to follow in his example. If you care about politics and you're reading this, I encourage you to both examine yourself and see if you need some self-care, and to be more caring about the mental health of your co-workers or fellow volunteers. This is something that should cut across party lines, and lead to a better environment for politics in Canada.

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