David Ruffley’s illness
27/06/2010 Leave a comment
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the local and national press after the shocking news of David Ruffley’s accident and the immediate widely reported press speculation that he allegedly threw himself in front of the Gatwick Express in an attempted Suicide bid, because he is suffering from depression, news perhaps not quite so shocking to many of us locally; thankfully he survived with only minor injuries.
The press were certainly bussing around and disappointingly before anything was confirmed or even denied various people were only too ready to give press comments, its all very well for the likes of bloggers such as Iain Dale commenting on the speculation for that is his job but you would have thought that rest of us could have waited to hear David’s perspective. I am writing this blog now because at the time, it seemed to me until David or his close friends said otherwise it’s was an accident and in my opinion should have remained as such, no one is arguing the speculation was not right nor that its not the media’s place to speculate but perhaps a little discretion locally would not have gone a miss.
It’s widely reported that he is suffering from depression because of the Daily Telegraph expenses scandal which I rather think does need to be put into context, firstly he was cleared of any wrong doing, secondly those who know him will tell you that he fought a good General Election campaign in the Bury St. Edmunds Constituency and less than six weeks ago he was returned with an increased majority, more people voted for him than had done so before, a fact he can and should be immensely proud of.
As we read the stories surrounding David I think we all need to look to ourselves as to how we react to him having this particular illness; in Suffolk I have an interesting and varied role as Portfolio Holder for Adult and Community Services part of which involves working with the Suffolk Mental Heath, I receive their board papers and have regular meetings with its chief executive Mark Halliday and Chairman Lord Tony Newton, himself a former Conservative Minister of State, and what you quickly come to realise is that mental health is a complex issue.
Complex not only in its root causes but also our attitude towards it, if someone has cancer or heart problems we have learnt how to react to that news; we are just starting to learn how to react to learning a loved one has Dementia or Alzheimer’s, but it seems to me we really struggle when we heard of someone having mental health issues, all too often you heard comments about strength of character, implying its their own fault, something we do not say when we think of cancer or heart disease and they will ‘snap out of it’, again something we do not say of cancer or heart disease; the precursors to getting a mental illness are far more common than many people care to believe, as are the sheer number of people with issues. I know I have certainly changed my attitude to this illness, as I in my role, have learnt more about it’s pre-cursors, symptoms, effects and treatments.
Whatever you think of Alastair Campbell, whilst not of my political persuasion, I recall going to see him at the Cambridge Arts Theatre when he first launched his diaries and remember the openness and honestly with which he reflected on his life and career; if you ‘google’ him and read his often candid thoughts on how depression affected him, what is clear is that those of us who have never suffered from the illness cannot begin to understand it, but are often quick to judge.
What David will need is support from his colleagues and friends both at Westminster and in Bury St. Edmunds and I know from the private conversations over the past couple of days that he has the respect and support from a very large group of supporters in this area. But he will also need ‘space’ to reflect and put into prospective his job for that’s what it is, his job as an MP.
I was really pleased to hear that Matthew Hancock MP and Daniel Poulter MP will be fulfilling David’s role between them so the good people of Bury St. Edmunds constituency are well represented during David’s time off.
Sadly when you see the press reaction ‘space’ is something that few are afforded in their insatiable appetite for stories, and I suspect he will not be spared but rather hounded to answer questions, clarify his position, defend and justify himself at a time when he needs everyone to leave him alone to work through his issues in his own time, and then return to work as MP for Bury St. Edmunds and carry on the good work that got him re-elected in the first place.