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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

RCPsych responds to MP’s challenge to the Prime Minister to end mental health stigma in parliament

Embargoed until 24 June 2009

Professor Dinesh Bhugra, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Mark Harper should be congratulated for raising this important issue. The fact that discrimination against mental health still exists at the very heart of parliament is simply unacceptable.

“Parliamentarians need to lead the fight against stigma and discrimination from the front. In 2004 the Government agreed to address this issue in legislation, but failed to do so. The Mark Harper amendment to the Equality Bill presents a significant opportunity for MPs to demonstrate to the outside world that discrimination against mental health has no place in parliament, or elsewhere, when 1 in 4 of us are likely to develop mental illness of one kind or another at some point in our lives.”

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896


Note to editors:

Mark Harper MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People, today (24 June 2009) challenged the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions to amend discriminatory provisions in existing legislation. Currently, under Section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, an MP automatically loses their seat in Parliament if detained under the Act for a period of six months or more. In contrast, there are no provisions to remove MPs suffering from physical illnesses which stop them from carrying out their duties and responsibilities for the same length of time. In July 2008 a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and other mental health organisations, showed that one in five MPs have some personal experience of a mental health problem. But one in 3 said work-based stigma and the expectation of a hostile reaction from the media and public prevented them from being open about mental health issues. The report, Mental Health in Parliament, called for the removal of Section 141 – a change which was backed by the majority of MPs surveyed. See the full report at


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