Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tory MP Recovers From "Suicide Attempt"

During the initial stages of the expenses scandal, Nadine Dorries warned that she thought it entirely conceivable that an MP might attempt suicide. A political hailstorm rained down on her, with bloggers and fellow politicians calling her remarks 'over the top' and far worse. Indeed, the party leadership briefed against her, describing her as 'whacky'.

Sadly, today it has been reported that her prediction apparently came true on Thursday, when Conservative MP David Ruffley allegedly threw himself in front of the Gatwick Express. Thankfully he survived with only minor injuries. Perhaps we will never know the whole reason which led him to do this - and depression usually relates to more than a single thing - but it has been an open secret among his colleagues that he was very badly affected by depression over the expenses saga and the Telegraph's accusations against him. The fact that he was cleared of doing anything wrong would not have changed the way he felt.

Depression is a terrible thing. Whatever you think of Alastair Campbell, you should read the part of the interview I did with him where he talks candidly about how it affected him. Those of us who have never suffered from it cannot begin to understand it. The temptation to tell someone to 'snap out of it' is always there. But snapping out of it is easier said than done.

David Ruffley, or Ruffers as he is known to his friends, has received a lot of support from colleagues and the party but in the end it's not possible from stopping someone from going down a particular path if that is what they are determined to do. Now he has reached the absolute nadir, everyone around him can provide the love and support he will need to recover from this awful episode.

47 comments:

Hamish said...

I have a friend who survived a similar suicide attempt. She somehow fell between the platform and the rail line.
When I talked to her afterwards, she agreed that she was not just depressed at the time, she was mad.
That was her own word, old-fashioned though it may be.
Suicide in and oldie like me is never a tragedy; suicide in a youngster always is.
Suicide in a middle-aged person is always a selfish act. They couldn't care less about the people they leave bereft.
They couldn't care less about the train driver and other railway workers who will be left traumatised by this event.

Morlock said...

And the connection that you've drawn to the expenses scandal (and Mad Nad's comments) is validated by what, exactly?

richard.blogger said...

You're right to say that depression is a terrible thing. It is an illness. Suicide attempts are not necessarily because of a single situation; such attempts are often caused by complicated and disconnected reasons culminating.

By mentioning the Dorries quote you are suggesting that the expenses scandal are the cause of this alleged attempt. This may not be the case, so perhaps you could be a little more careful?

JuliaM said...

"Sadly, today it has been reported that her prediction apparently came true on Thursday..."

Oh, come on! No-one knows why he did it.

If it turns out to be personal issues in his life, it's hardly a case of Mad Nad getting anything right, is it?

Iain Dale said...

Look, when you write an article like this there are things that you can say and things that you can't overtly say.

I know for a fact that Ruffley had become incredibly depressed by the expenses thing and that colleagues had been worried about him for some time. It may not have been the whole reason, but it was certainly a large part of it.

ian said...

I wish him well.

"Depression" manifests itself in many ways and coping with its effects in someone close is harrowing.

It also brings home very bluntly that no matter how much one does to bring comfort, tackling the root cause is another matter entirely - and can leave one feeling utterly helpless.

I hope that our friend soon finds hope. There will be many of us rooting for him and I hope he knows it.

Líam said...

This is a terrible story.

Often those who are driven to such extremes feel as though there really is no other valid option - to go through with it rests on their mind because of the reputation it may leave; to not go through it builds the doubt and negative feelings on the mind constantly. Suicide attempts are the consequence of feeling utterly trapped.

There is little logic in the mind of a seriously depressed person. He could have stood down at the last election, he could have taken time out away from the House. He could have done a lot of things.

I hope he is okay. There can only be sympathy and good wishes in a case like this.

Curbishlyauto said...

Oh, come on! No-one knows why he did it.

And that includes you.I find the fact that you have to call her Mad Nad suggests you are somewhat less than objective.

Joe Public said...

"If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear."

Only fiddlers should be worried / depressed at getting caught out.

Manfarang said...

It takes time to overcome depression.Avoid ECT,psycotherapy is a better option in the long run.
I wish David Ruffley well.

fugitiveink said...

Politicians are no more perfect than the rest of us. Few people would wish for everything they've ever said or done to be a matter of public scrutiny. The extraordinary callousness of some of the comments (here and elsewhere) about David Ruffley amazes me - as did the comments about David Laws, as far as that goes. What's happened to basic human sympathy? There's a terrible sort of witch-burning, lynch-mob nastiness about which can't lead to anything good.

Well, for what it's worth, Iain, I agree with your post. (The tolerance, sense of perspective and and human decency you show it in suggest part of why you'd have been an asset in the House of Commons, although the context, sadly, suggests why you've probably had a lucky escape from an increasingly thankless, charmless, pointless career option.) And I wish David Ruffley well, too.

Unsworth said...

"During the initial stages of the expenses scandal, Nadine Dorries warned that she thought it entirely conceivable that an MP might attempt suicide."

She did indeed. However neither you nor she have established the reason for David Ruffley's (particularly sad) actions. And you'll note that the Sun report also says "David Ruffley, 48, was shadow minister for Policing before the election, but missed out on a ministerial post."

Until it's clear that there is a linkage I think it unwise to assume the cause. Statistically it's quite possible that any MP may make a suicide attempt - for whatever reason. I still think that Dorries was completely wrong to make that stupid assertion, but perhaps she was concerned about her own position and expenses.

Span Ows said...

Very saad about David Ruffley, I hope he has family and friends close to him now.

Re the Total Politics: you get the impression from reading it that Ally Campbell is actually quite a nice bloke...this is very annoying!

;-)

Plato said...

Poor chap. Hope he can now share how awful he feels and be buoyed up by those who love him.

For those who have never experienced black depression or known someone who has - I find their callous comments quite repellent.

For someone to have lost all hope/self-worth or believe that they must punish themselves like this need TLC not condemnation.

All Seeing Eye said...

Joe Public - "Only fiddlers should be worried / depressed at getting caught out."

People, as we know, have committed suicide after being falsely accused of offences such as rape. So your comment does not hold up.

Kevin said...

I have depression - i have had it for over 2 years now - and by god it is debilitating - VERY.

The feeling that life is utterly pointlessness invades your very being. Nothing, even eating - seems worth the bother. Better just to curl up and die.

What causes depression i do not know? No doubt it is myriad of complex psychological and psychiatric reasons

BUT

having depression neither excuses you for potentially doing something wrong or exonerates you if you have already done something wrong.

Offer help to those afflicted (and a lot better than the help the NHS offered me - it took them 9 months to get me to a psychiatrist)

But it’s NOT a get out of jail free card. And frankly it demeans the rest of us with depression if a fellow sufferer or their advocate were to try and imply that this might be the case

Little Black Sambo said...

So should everybody have kept quiet about what the MPs were doing?

neilmack said...

Fugitiveink has got this one right.

There's something quite vicious and inhumane abroad and it's getting worse. It's notable that the effects of mere accusation (no need for proof) are so dreadful. We used to set a high value on fairness, and giving people a chance - now the world seems full of spiteful little toads giving vent to their bile.

I wish Mr Ruffley a speedy recovery.

Gallimaufry said...

Although some of his claims, were reduced by the Fees Office, I fail to see how Nadine Dorries' claim stands up.
There may be other reasons for Mr Ruffley's actions and state of mind but I respect his privacy in matters that don't involve public money and wish him all the best.

rick_h said...

Firstly, may I express my sympathy for David and those who know him. Mental illness is sadly something we do not yet understand well enough to treat as we would like.
It bears mentioning though, that "cleared of all wrong-doing" is probably not what the vast majority of the public think about what David, and a large number of other "cleared" MPs, did. It is probably for this reason that David still feels a weight of negative opinion on him, because there actually is such a weight.
Unless and until MPs standards are made the same as everyone elses, then this "cleared" legally but publicly guilty situation will persist, and other MPs may act as David has done.
The real tragedy is that the worse case MPs are shameless, and thus will not suffer from such depression.
In simple terms, MPs still don't 'get it', and David Laws is another example of this. Forget the rent business, I want to know why his utilities claims dropped by over 50% immediately he was asked to provide receipts. He is a crook most people's eyes for this alone.
I am not a psychiatrist, but I suspect owning up and resigning will remove much of the source of the depression. This is what I want from the likes of David, not any physical or mental harm to come to him.

Southsea Expat said...

Six years ago I suffered from severe clinical depression - bad enough to be hospitalised. Even when I was well enough to go home, it took me a further two years to recover completely.

Every day throughout those two years I prayed for God to end my life. My strong Christian faith and desire not to hurt my family stopped me from actually attempting suicide but I thought about it a lot.

No-one who hasn't been there can appreciate what an awful illness depression is. Mine followed very painful cancer treatment. If forced to go through one or the other again, I would choose cancer over depression any day. My psychiatrist said he had heard the same from others.

Physical illness attacks your body but leaves your fighting spirit and your sense of humour intact. Depression destroys every human coping mechanism as a part of the illness. You are left utterly defenceless.

Mr Ruffley has my deepest sympathy. If I could, I would say to him that there is a reason for hanging on, despite the mental anguish. Six years on I am completely well mentally, although still in considerable pain from the cancer treatment. Each day I take great pleasure in the little things of life - sitting in the sunshine, a shared joke, playing with my cat. I am now profoundly grateful that God did not answer my prayers to die. If David Ruffley can only hang on in there, one day the same will be true for him.

Beatrice said...

First may I express my good wishes to Mr Ruffley.

This may seem a bit premature but I think the Conservative Parliamentary Party need to think about how they might rehabilitate Mr Ruffley should he wish to return to Parliament.

There is plenty of know how on vocational rehabilitation. MPs have experienced ill health before. This is not new. Conventional Westminster wisdom has it that once it becomes known that an MP has a mental health problem they should stand down. However that is not accepted by everyone in the Conservative Party. Mark Harper is one who rejects that contention. So is Andrew Lansley.

Were a Westminster party to rehabilitate an MP in such circumstances that would be a great example for the country. If an MP can do it why not any one else? There is something to be said for leading by example.

I think this is quite doable. I have worked as a journalist and as a Parliamentary researcher. I have been a mental health activist off and on for 20 years and I have lived with bipolar for 25 years (though I haven't actually been ill all that time). So I am pretty realistic about the pressure of Parliamentary life. Believe me there are tougher working lives.

I don't think the public would swallow the rehabilitation of a single MP if nothing were done to help those struggling with stress at work. If the unemployed received no help either there would be resentment if an MP received favoured treatment. But if the MP were to be part of a trend that would be different and very welcome. Some would respect such an individual for overcoming adversity. Such an MP would be seen as credible on mental health because they have the personal experience. There might be votes in this. I am no Conservative. I would just love it parties were to compete properly on mental health.

I fully realise this is tough for Mr Ruffley. He won't be ready to be asking himself if he really wants to be a poster boy for such a venture. However if Mr Ruffley is to be given a chance of resuming work in whatever capacity the people around him need to start thinking now about how best to help him. That probably means keeping his political options open. The guy needs to know he has not lost everything. He still has places to go.

Joe Public said...

A S E @ 3:11

So, he didn't fiddle even 1p eh?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5336426/David-Ruffley-the-shopping-trip-that-provided-Tory-with-new-bedroom-at-your-expense.html

Henry said...

I am naturally on the left but this kind of thing goes beyond politics. I really hope that David Ruffley gets the space and time that he needs to recover from this- and that he gets care and love from his family and those around him. I suffer from depression and it is a truly debilitating illness. You are right though to mention Campbell who is a man who afterall managed to get through depression and to function in a very stressful and difficult job. Lets hope Ruffley can get back to serving as an MP or doing whatever else he wants to do in the future.

barry monk said...

Iain, I am very sorry for Mr Ruffley an dfor his family, but you have opened a can of worms here.

You say that colleagues have been worried about his state of mind for some time; if that is true, why on earth did they allow him to stand for parliament? is it really OK for people who have significant mental health issues to be voting on new legislation?

AndrewSouthLondon said...

Gosh what a caring sensitive bunch you all are. Let me put a different perspective on this, from someone whose daily journey to work from East Croydon to Gatwick was regularly blighted by jumpers.

Every few week a selfish train-jumper ruined the working life of thousands of people while Southern and Capital Connect suspended services so some one could walk around and pick up their body parts. A traumatised train driver would take a couple of months if not years off for being traumatised.

The rest of us just deal with the crap in our lives, not make a mess for others on their chosen way out.

Its a selfish act make no mistake.

Matt said...

The comments from some of the posters here make me wonder exactly how far their detachment from humanity has taken them?

Quite a long way. They disgust me.

tris said...

Yep. The Daily Telegraph, that well-known erm....Tory paper, should have just let them all off with it (or maybe just the Tory thieves), in case, as Nadine the psychologist suggested, they all started throwing themselves off buildings.

Perhaps we should also be careful about accusing the lower orders of thieving from the dole, lest some of them can't take it and start the lemming run.


Really.... The fact that he got away with it doesn't really clear him. What about Alistair darling, and the moat man, and the manure man. They all got away with it.

In fact the only ones who didn't were these three hapless half wit bottom feeders in the Labour party that the Labour leadership (whatever that is) wanted rid of in any case.

Steven_L said...

If they put all the MP's that fiddled their expenses in prison then the appropriate authorities could care for their depression and make sure they come to no harm.

Not that I'm saying this chap (whom I've never even heard of) did fiddle any expenses or that his illness was anything to do with MP's expenses.

tapestry said...

Hypnotherapy was a big help when I became ill. There can be physical causes to depression, such as excessive toxicity in your environment which can lead to chronic fatigue.

Chelation and other therapies can remove toxins from your body and reduce your toxic load, and vaccines can control the effects of allergies.

You accumulate toxins throughout your life, chemicals, metals and so on, and they affect different people in different ways.

Illness rarely has only one cause, and many things all conspiring together combine to tip you over the edge.

There is always a way back, but it might take radical lifestyle measures, and many therapies in combination.

He should stand back and put himself first, and not worry about other people, expenses or anything else. Health is always number one.

FTD said...

"Apparently". "Allegedly". Once again you use an unsubstantiated story to make your point. It is sloppy journalism, made worse when it is about "suicide".

Terry said...

Very sad. Perhaps he will now get the medical treatment he should have had before which might have prevented this episode. There is still far too big a stigma around menatl illness in this country we need to address.
As for Campbell. Sorry Iain but I never believe a word this consummate liar ever says. Everything is to show something, including himself, in a somehow better light and is done whatever that takes.

G.O.T. said...

Exactly what 'Andrew South London' said.

Some of you here need to get a life, so to speak.

He wasn't too depressed when he had his snout in the trough was he? Only after he was caught? And whose to say what else was going on in his life that ultimately had a bearing on his attempt. One thing is for sure, there's nothing more gutless and selfish than someone who involves an innocent victim in their own suicide.

Grow the f**k up!

keeptonyblairforpm said...

@ tapestry.

Thanks for the useful information. One in four of us will get depression at some time in our lives, as with cancer. Someone I know has found the NHS sadly lacking in dealing with depression, especialy if there is the (common) double issue of drink and depression. There is a "go away, stop drinking, and then we'll look at the depression" approach. People who drink too much AND are depressed do not get help under the NHS, as I understand it. And the causal effect is not necessarily drink leading to depression. Often it's the other way round. Perhaps this new government will fix this cinderella service.

Btw, I do hope the poor man can pick himself up after this. I never agreed with the Telegraph's witchhunt over expenses right from the start. I believe it was politically motivated, knowing it was likely to hurt the Labour party more than the Tories. It almost backfired in a tragic way, it would seem.

Hearing that an American woman had spent $70M - that's seventy million dollars on her campaign to become a senator on R4 the other night put things into even clearer perspective. And we want to hang people for a duck pond!

In reference to "bullying" which someone else mentioned as a common cause of depression - I know that few people on here will have a vote in the Labour party leadership business. But if anyone does they should remember what Diane Abbott said - "Anyone who is bullied, only have themselves to blame."

Leadership material, clearly.

Blue Eyes said...

"it has been an open secret among his colleagues that he was very badly affected by depression over the expenses saga"

I'm envious of the simplistic world you live in, Ian. A world where "bad thing happens --> depression". No idea, none, whatsoever. For a change, when you don't have a clue about a particular issue why don't you not type a blog post on it?

M. Hristov said...

I think that we have to let Mr Ruffley recover without endless media speculation and prurience. I wish him well, as will anyone who has a decent bone in their body.

Nadine Dorries impressed me as someone who really cared when she appeared on “Tower Block of Commons” but she did not strike me as a person of good judgement and this is borne out by her complaints about expenses.

After nearly 30 years of endless trumpeting, by MPs, of the need for everyone to embrace change and the need for supposedly selfish professionals to relinquish self government, change and external governance have finally come to the House of Commons and MPs are in shock. I have very little sympathy for them, particularly the older generation. MPs blithely told people that they would have to change careers three times in a lifetime and be subject to bossy and ignorant external governance. The old ‘Spanish practises’ were ruthlessly suppressed in all walks of life. MPs clearly thought that they would always be immune frolm such changes Now they face such constraints themselves and they don’t know how to manage.

There is a lesson in this and that is no one is immune from revolution, once it gets going and make no mistake there has been a revolution in which people have lost jobs for life, have had to abandon Spanish practises and account for expense expenditure. The revolution has also all but destroyed the independence of the old professions, by imposing external governance on them.

MPs are like the pre-Stalin Soviet Communist Party who enjoyed immunity from the terror. They thought that their immunity would protect them. Stalin soon changed that. Stalin swept away the Old Bolsheviks into the Gulag and often into the grave.

Now MPs have had their Spanish practices curtailed and external governance imposed upon them and they have learnt that these wonderful changes that they imposed on us are not so wonderful after all.

Perhaps we can a reversion to real conservatism. To preservation of the good things we have and a return to trusting professionals and others.

Jabba the Cat said...

According to the MOS, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1288028/Suicide-Tory-felt-humiliated-expenses-revelations.html

"He claimed £1,674 for a sofa and £2,175 for a 46in Sony widescreen high-definition television, bought from Harrods. He spent a further £6,765 at the upmarket And So To Bed furnishing store on items including a £3,350 ‘lightly distressed’ solid limewood Cezanne Socle bedstead, a £1,000 traditional bedstead and two bedside cabinets, each costing £799."

That makes him a troughing little piggy where I come from.

GarethS said...

If you haven't had depression, let me assure you you are in no position to judge. It is quite the shittiest of illnesses and renders useless even the hardiest of souls. I have been there, it threatened my career and killed my relationship with the woman I love to this day.

Those who mock depression lack basic humanity.

Cynic said...

An amazing number of people attempt suicide at some point in their lives - I think the UK figure is about 1 in 100 - but most are unsuccessful or simple cries for help.

But it is bad for MPs - even the honest ones. I am a good friend of an MP (yes I will come out) who emerged from the crisis with a completely clean slate - scrupulously honest. They are now barracked in the street on a regular basis by constituents shouting abuse. Many of these are elderly nutters raging at the world but they have even stopped walking their dog now because they just cannot stand it anymore

Iain Dale said...

Blue Eyes, The same could be said of your comment. You know nothing about what I know or don't know of this sad situation.

JuliaM said...

kepptonyblairforpm: "Hearing that an American woman had spent $70M - that's seventy million dollars on her campaign to become a senator on R4 the other night put things into even clearer perspective. And we want to hang people for a duck pond!"

Oh, right. That was $70 million of taxpayer's money, was it? Not freely given campaign contributions from everyone from big business to mom 'n pop stores?

You are comparing apples and washing machines.

If I wish to buy my MP a duck pond, that's fine. It's not fine when he buys himself a duck pond and sticks it on my bill!

Sean Haffey said...

When it comes to depression there are two golden rules.

a. Give the sufferer support and time.
b. Least said soonest mended.

Grand_Inquisitor said...

Those who have suffered from mental illness - sometimes brought on by a chance event - will know that it is often not possble to "Pull yourself together". Those who have not been down this black path in life should be grateful.

Helen said...

And the effect this may have had on the train driver and the passengers, not to mention other people on the platform? How many of them will have to cope with psychiatric problems now? I bet the driver will.

Humanity said...

Nadine Dorries was actually correct.. I know this for a fact but still we have those like Joe Public. There are some nasty people around..and Joe..it's ugly. Check the mirror.

MARK said...

I still notice so many weeks on that David Ruffley has yet to be arrested and charged for trespassing on a railway line. The CPS say that it is in the "publics interest" to charge failed suiciders. I know of quite a few people who had to go to magistrates court for this offence. Special rules for MPs but "kick" the lower classes when they are already at their lowest point!

georgek said...

Depression will be a major issue for some of the long-term unemployed. Some will be on incapacity benefit, but many will be on jobseekers. Their challenges are different to the unemployed without depression. I think Ian Duncan Smith understand this, I don't think George Osborne does.

What has happened to David Ruffley is a tragedy, but it also gives him a unique position to explain to ministers the consequences of depression, and how telling them to "snap out of it" is not response.