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By Jason Michael

SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST leader Ruth Davidson has said in an interview to The Sunday Times Magazine that she has ruled out becoming the next Prime Minister, saying she values her mental health too much. In this interview she revealed that her arms were “crisscrossed with a lattice of self-harm scars” as she described her troubled teenage years as ones plagued with bouts of depression, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. We have no reason to doubt the veracity of what she has said, this is a frighteningly common experience for far too many young people in Scotland. It is wrong to assume she is not telling the truth, regardless of her political reputation for being somewhat cavalier with the truth. This is a personal account of her past, and if she says this was her experience the least we can do – as human beings – is show her compassion.

Why The Sunday Times and the BBC have showcased these personal facts, from what was yet another uncritical and politically promotional interview, is quite another matter. No one ever says they want to be Prime Minister when the party to which they belong is in power. Such a disclosure can only be career destroying; of course Ms Davidson wants to be leader of the Tory party. Considering the soft lighting the establishment media has shone on her and what we know of her personal ambition, given the opportunity, Ruth Davidson will grab Number 10 with both hands. This is where we can be absolutely certain she was being true to form and telling lies – but, who could blame her?

God knows the Conservatives need a leader who resembles a real person. This is something Theresa May has never been able to convincingly pull off, what with her reminiscences of gayly leaping through the fields of wheat, her cringe-worthy attempts at curtsying to even the most insignificant members of the royal family, and with her flawless demonstration of the robot recently in South Africa. Forget David Icke’s lizard people, Theresa May is the “Maybot.” She has managed to appear less human than any other Tory leader in living memory – and that’s some achievement considering most of us still remember John Major. If it wants to make a success of the “people’s Brexit” the Conservative establishment knows it needs a real people at the help.

Davidson, with all the warm glowing details of her love life, her pregnancy, and now her all-too human troubled past, is being lined up for the top job – regardless of what she says to the contrary. This is why we must take exception to this gratuitous self-revelation. As the British media is now using her past depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation as a means of constructing the ideal human replacement for Mrs May, something ought to be said of the Tories’ record on mental health, depression, personal wellbeing, and suicide. The Tories are the last people on earth who should be allowed a free pass when it comes to humanising a candidate behind the sympathetic story of a teenage girl feeling smothered by the darkness of low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. That, it has to be said, is a bridge too far.

We cannot afford to forget that Ruth Davidson is a keen supporter of the rape clause; an exemption created by the British government to deal with anomalies to its tax credit reforms. Now parents will only be entitled to tax credit support for their first two children (Britain’s two-child policy) with a small number of exceptions including: adoptions, kinship care, and multiple births. To these the London government has added children born as a result of “non-consensual conception” – rape. All a woman – a rape survivor – is required to do is admit on a government form that her third or subsequent child was the “result of a sexual act which [she] didn’t or couldn’t consent to” or “at a time when [she was] in an abusive relationship, under ongoing control or coercion by the other parent of the child.” But what impact would this have on a woman’s mental health?

It’s not difficult to find research on the psychological effects of rape and sexual violence. Evelyne Josse, a psychologist and psychotherapist, the pedagogical co-ordinator at the Belgian Institute of Victimology and a consultant in psychology in humanitarian action, published the following in the International Review of the Red Cross:

Although most victims do not develop clinical depression, almost all feel, at some point, sad and hopeless. Symptoms of depression include sadness, loss of interest in life, suicidal impulses, feelings of powerlessness (e.g. feeling unable – especially as a woman – to defend oneself, improve one’s lot in life, etc.), discouragement, pessimism, hopelessness, and the feeling that the future holds nothing good. These symptoms may be accompanied by crying spells, constant weeping, feelings of dejection, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide itself.

According to suicide.org about 33 per cent of rape victims have suicidal thoughts, about 13 percent will attempt suicide, and that such attempts may occur years after the assault. Ruth Davidson, a woman who has experienced the awfulness of depression and suicidal ideation, supports a government policy that demands that women who have conceived as a result of rape – as we can see, often vulnerable and very fragile people – relive their trauma on an impersonal and dehumanising government form in order to put food on the table.

Where one would expect to find compassion in Ms Davidson, even revulsion, what she gives is enthusiastic support to a government that would do this to women who are going through the hell of a psychological misery of which she has painful personal experience. There comes a point in ethical discussion when one can no longer hide behind the trauma of one’s own past when one is inflicting the same and worse on others. Ruth Davidson has passed that point – and this is before we mention the other Conservative policies which have been shown time and again to drive people to the very pits of human despair and suicide. Davidson cannot hide behind her experience, sad as it is, and it cannot be used by her party and the British media to appeal to those suffering with poor mental health – because they are so often the root cause of people’s suffering.

We should have all the compassion in the world for Ruth Davidson. It is essential that we separate the personal from the political. She is a human being, and no matter how repugnant her political beliefs she deserves to be treated with respect and dignity as a human being. But this does not absolve her of her support of the British government inflicting this and worse on others and her complicity in the suffering and misery her party has created. In distinguishing between the personal and the political we are duty bound to call out the hypocrisy of any attempt made by her or the political establishment and its media to shield her from responsibility for her actions by using her past.

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Andrew Tickell, Lecturer in Law, on the ‘rape clause.’


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4 thoughts on “Valuing Ruth’s Mental Health

  1. Perhaps I’m being over cynical, but would Ruth Davidson’s revelations be in any way connected to the current campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues? She has never been known to fall off a bandwagon.

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  2. I have a question for Ruth Davidson, people can and I dare say will correct me if I’m wrong. Ruth is I believe a lesbian and has just been married to another woman, whom I believe she calls her husband? Now she is pregnant and is happy but she then states the child will have two mums? She got IVF treatment to get pregnant, now did she get NHS treatment or was it private, reason I ask, she states the woman she married is her husband and their child will have two mum’s but she goes on to state her other half will have their next child but under NHS rules state only one chance per family/per household in Scotland can get IVF treatment to have a child, so did she have treatment on NHS and if so how can her husband/ partner have the same or will she go private and pay (did Ruth pay) . Other question, who is or will be the Dad/Dad’s.

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