Every week I receive insults on social media from people who think they know me and my background.
Sometimes such abuse is water off a duck’s back but I have to admit that, occasionally, I find it shocking.
It is not that I am surprised by rude words – I have been around for too long for that – but I am taken aback that my detractors have built up such a false picture of me.
It seems that we Conservative MPs are pigeon-holed as being born with silver spoons in our mouths and never having had to dirty our hands.
One day, I shall tell the story of my upbringing – I think it would surprise a lot of folk!
My former House Of Commons colleague Amanda Solloway beat me to it when she addressed a mental health awareness day which my team organised recently.
Amanda, who lost her seat in last year’s snap General Election, has started up the mental health charity Head High.
She explained that her motivation came from her childhood with an alcoholic mother whose addiction meant that Amanda and her brother had a most difficult time.
Amanda spoke passionately and painfully about the detail of living with someone with significant mental health issues.
She told how her family were so poor that she often went hungry as a child and had to ‘borrow’ her mother’s clothes if she wanted to go for a night out because she had nothing suitable to wear.
She also endured violence.
Her story ended with a very moving account of a death bed reco-nciliation.
After Amanda spoke, Julian Hall from an organisational called Calm People challenged the audience to think about their own mental health – particularly with relevance to the work place.
He posed significant questions about our emotional resilience and told us how we can recognise signs of fragility in ourselves and others.Speakers such as these and events such as the one held at the University of Derby demonstrate, at long last, that we are wearing down the stigma which has surrounded mental health issues.
According to the latest statistics from the Mental Health Foundation, one in five people in
the UK aged 16 and over show symptoms of anxiety or depression.
The percentage was higher among females (22.5%) than males (16,8%).
There are almost four million cases of bi-polar and that is more likely to affect the young.
I could continue with many more figures about and the effect on individuals, families,
friends, workplaces and even the national economy.
When I was growing up and even into my adult life we were taught to keep our feelings to
Indeed, to speak about them was seen as a potential weakness.
Thank goodness, those days are ending. We all need to open up about the state of our
mental health and there are myriad organisations which can help us.
Many were represented at our event and I thank them for being around to advise visitors on
the correct pathways.
However, I know that we need to be able to reach many more people who need help.
My own background means that I am determined to publicise these services as much as I
Mental health issues cover many conditions and these are outlined at
Please, if you are suffering, go to the website or talk to a mental health practitioner. The
first steps could not only begin your recovery, they could change your whole life.
If this column provides the spur to just one person, I would be delighted.