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Kirsty Blackman: Aberdeen MP shares mental health struggles and says ‘it is OK not to be OK’

Kirsty Blackman.
Kirsty Blackman.

Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman has opened up about suffering from depression, urging others to seek help if they are in the same situation.

The SNP politician stood down as the party’s deputy leader at Westminster in July to focus on her family, mental health and constituency work.

Ms Blackman has now shared she was diagnosed for moderate depression and on some days “couldn’t find the energy to get off the sofa”.

She added that while the recovery process is “really slow”, a break over the summer and anti-depressants had helped her mental health.

The MP, who has represented Aberdeen North since 2015, also thanked Nicola Sturgeon, her Westminster party colleagues, politicians from all parties, her staff and constituents, for their support.

I don’t have a job where it’s possible to take time off. At least without feeling guilty.”

Kirsty Blackman

In a Twitter thread, which has been shared hundreds of times, Ms Blackman said: “I have no idea how to post about this but I feel I should.

“We are living through a global pandemic. Life has changed in ways nobody predicted and we couldn’t have imagined even at the start of 2020.

“Many of us have been ill. Far too many have lost loved ones. We have not been able to seek the comfort of spending time with those we love.

“At the start of 2020 my mental health was likely already on a shoogly peg and the massive increase in workload coupled with trying to be a perfect parent, on the back of three general elections and the mess that is Brexit, meant I needed a break so badly to recover from it all.

“I don’t have a job where it’s possible to take time off. At least without feeling guilty. I have been working full time since I was 19 and I’ve never been signed off.

“This summer I have needed that time. I have been so grateful for the support from the SNP Westminster team, from our First Minister, from politicians of all parties, from my wonderful staff and from so many constituents.

“It is unusual for a politician, or anyone in the public eye, to talk about their mental health issues.

“Only a break and antidepressants has got me to this level of recovery.”

This is a long road for all of us. Please know you are not alone. It is okay not to be okay.”

Kirsty Blackman

Ms Blackman added: “The worst thing was the lack of energy. Some days I couldn’t find the energy to get off the sofa. I felt so sad and worried all the time. Eventually I was diagnosed with moderate depression.

“I’ve also been more introverted than ever before. I usually love the company of others but I’ve found it so tiring to spend time with people this summer.

“I’m not yet better. I am much better than I was but not back to my usual, enthusiastic, optimistic self. Recovery is a really slow process, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

“If you’re in the same situation I am, or in a worse place, please keep working with your medical professionals.

“If your antidepressants are not working or are causing side effects, go back to your GP, who can prescribe an alternative.

“This is a long road for all of us. Please know you are not alone. It is okay not to be okay.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

The thread has been shared by dozens of people praising the politician for her bravery in sharing her experiences.

Among them, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “It can’t be easy to speak with so much honesty about her own mental health but by doing so Kirsty is giving courage to others. It’s okay not to feel okay, especially during these difficult times.”

SNP MP Douglas Chapman said: “A lot of us have not been ourselves for the past six months. It’s brave of Kirsty to put all that out there and is a sign of strength not weakness. Ask for help. Talk to someone you trust. It really is okay not to be okay. Hope you continue to recover at your own pace.”

Meanwhile, former SNP minister Marco Biagi, who quit government in 2016 because of his mental health, also took to Twitter to comment on Ms Blackman’s statement, describing mental ill health as the “other great pandemic of our era”.

He added: “It can strike any of us by surprise and there are those of us who have to fight it all their lives. Having parliamentarians be open about it can only help with the ongoing stigma.”

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