Conservative election candidate talks about life with depression
Safe and getting care: Hamish Hunter has spoken publicly about why he was not on the local election ballot paper
17 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley
A CONSERVATIVE candidate who pulled out of the local elections in the weeks before polling day has been praised for bravely talking about his battle with depression.
Hamish Hunter had been due to stand for the Tories in Hampstead but withdrew in the run-up and was replaced on the ballot paper by new councillor Maria Higson. While the personal difficulties he was experiencing were known among Conservative organisers, opponents unaware of Mr Hunter’s problems had raised questions as to why the party had lost their candidate late on in the campaign.
Now Mr Hunter has explained his absence and how has sought help for depression.
“I feel strongly that some things need to be said to combat stigma if no other reason. For the past three months I have been very unwell with depression and suffered an almost complete breakdown,” he said. “Things by no means started three months ago when I was resigned as a candidate in Hampstead Town but I fell through the floor after that. I am nowhere near better or well but I am safe and getting care. It has been, and continues to be, the scariest and most unpleasant things I’ve ever experienced.”
He added: “I’m being open about this because I never thought I was the kind of person who this could happen to. If just one person sees this and seeks some help when they need it or feels a little less alone then that’s fantastic.” Mr Hunter had been on the slate to stand in the local elections for more than a year and had been a prominent activist during last year’s general election campaign. Local Tories are understood to feel that they tried their best to help but were “unqualified” to help as his depression set in.
Behind the scenes, there were disagreements about the best way to support Mr Hunter, who had fallen out with some members. Before stepping down from the election team, Mr Hunter had campaigned for the restoration of Hampstead’s historic black street signs, weekly bin collections and more police officers.
MIND: details of nearest support groups
0300 123 3393
SAMARITANS: confidential helpline for people feeling despair
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
SANE: care and support by phone and text
Phone: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30-10.30pm)
Register for text support http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
NHS advice recommends making an appointment with your GP if you think you may be suffering from depression
On Twitter, the barrister listed comments that had not been helpful and how the best approach for friends and colleagues was being available to talk.
He said he would use social media to explain his experience in a way which could help others. His openness has been met with messages of support including well wishes from James Calmus, who stood for Labour in the Belsize ward and new Lib Dem councillor Luisa Porritt.
A similar case unfolded in her ward in 2009 when a Lib Dem councillor stepped down after being diagnosed with depression. Mr Hunter said he was “overwhelmed” by messages of support after making the decision to go public, although added in further comments that he had “lost his purpose” in life and felt “emptiness”.
How to recognise the symptoms of depression
MIND, the mental health charity, helps people suffering from depression get the support they need.
Steve Buckley, MIND’s head of information, said: “Depression is more common than people realise and around one in six people will experience depression during their lifetime. Symptoms vary, but common signs might include feeling restless, low-spirited, numb or helpless, sleep too much or too little, avoid eating, withdrawing from contact with friends or family, or even – in some cases – thinking about suicide.”
He added: “We all experience down days but if the feelings don’t go away after a couple of weeks or get worse, it could be a sign of depression.”
On the issue of people talking about their difficulties openly, he said: “The impact of high profile individuals speaking out about their own mental health shouldn’t be underestimated. They help normalise mental health problems. MIND research found that over a quarter (28 per cent) of people who know someone with mental health problems said they had started a conversation with a loved one about their mental health as a direct result of reading or hearing about a celebrity’s experiences.”
“A quarter (25 per cent) also said hearing a celebrity talk openly about their own mental health had directly inspired them to seek help for themselves and half (52 per cent) said it has helped them to feel like they weren’t alone.”