MP reveals struggle with depression in hope of breaking public stigma

The Westmorland Gazette: John Woodcock MP John Woodcock MP

BARROW’S Labour MP has revealed he has clinical depression - in the hope of breaking down the stigma towards the illness.

John Woodcock MP, who was elected to serve the Furness seat in 2010, has spoken candidly about the subject on his latest blog.

Mr Woodcock, the former shadow transport secretary, stepped down from the front bench post after falling from a ladder at his home last year and suffering a head injury.

In his latest blog posted this morning, he reveals how he saw a doctor this week and was prescribed anti-depressants to ‘relieve’ his ‘black moods.’

Wrote Mr Woodcock: “Because brilliant, inspiring people have had the courage to speak up and make the case that my latest ailment shouldn’t be treated any differently from these physical injuries, I am just going to come right out and say that I am clinically depressed.

“I am very much hoping that my constituents and fellow parliamentarians won’t notice much of a difference from me popping pills."

He continued: “But I felt I needed to do something because the painfully long time it is taking to recover from banging my head when I fell off the ladder means there are regular periods when I am left utterly drained by simple tasks and barely able to get out of bed – and that exhaustion can make me really down.

“Despite being below par, I honestly think I have continued to be able to do a decent job for the area I represent as I have been recovering.

“But I am impatient to do more. And I just hate it, and hate myself, when I sit down to play with my wonderful daughters, aged one and four, but find within minutes that their boundless energy and chatter reduces my head to painful mush and I have to take myself away from them.”

Mr Woodcock, raised in Sheffield, said he took anti-depressants as a student when struggling to adapt to a new life and in the ‘months of turmoil’ following the death of his sister 10 years ago.

He said: “They helped me get through those difficult periods then and I really think they will now too, not by changing my personality but in lessening the despair that sometimes comes when I have no energy.

"I am hopeful that relieving my depression will speed up my full recovery or at least enable me to do more in the meantime.”

Mr Woodcock said he had been inspired by fellow Labour MP for North Durham Kevan Jones and former Downing Street director of communications, Alastair Campbell, who have both spoken openly about depression.

Said Mr Woodcock: “Because – as Alastair says – the more people who are open when they suffer the sooner we will just come to view mental health problems through the same lens as physical injuries.”

“We have come a long way in relatively few years thanks to the way that charities like Mind and brave individuals have campaigned.”

“I will be the MP for Barrow and Furness for as long as my constituents want me, and I hope to serve my country in any way that I can.”

National charity Mind welcomed the MP's honesty.

Kate Stringer, of Time to Change, England’s biggest mental health anti-stigma programme, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“It is incredibly encouraging to hear that John Woodcock has felt able to talk publicly about his mental health problem.

"John also says that hearing other people share their experiences, including those in high profile positions, has helped him to speak out about his depression, which is a really positive sign.

"We are now beginning to see more parliamentarians feel able to discuss their mental health problems openly without fear of discrimination and we want people from all walks of life to be able to do the same."

To read the full blog, visit



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