DURING the election campaign I was contacted by some of the Conservatives’ opponents and asked why I was not writing more on Hamish Hunter’s removal from the candidate election list. To be honest, I swerved the question, and maybe the coverage on his difficulties with depression this week explains why.
It was a hard call. As I was trying to explain in the recent post about Sadiq Khan’s response to the CNJ, in which he essentially grouped us all into the same smash-and-grab tabloid school of journalism, we are trying to be a little more than chip shop paper. We certainly don’t always get it right, but writing about someone’s mental health, which at the point of the election campaign would’ve been without their blessing, is not something that takes two seconds of consideration and then a rush to publication.
There could be an argument that pushing harder on Hamish’s departure from the campaign earlier would’ve raised the issue of how well Camden’s Conservative Party, and probably any other local party, is equipped to deal with a candidate or campaigner in distress, particularly at a time when their priority is zoomed in on simply winning votes.
There are lessons to be learned on all sides, but I get the impression many small organisations or small businesses without expansive HR facilities wouldn’t know immediately the best course of action. It’s why we’ve asked MIND to provide some guidance on the CNJ website today. I hope it helps.
That all said, Hamish is now openly tweeting on a nightly shift about his experience. Some friends are worried that social media may not be the best form of therapy and that his tweets on the subject are laced with ‘you know who you are’ digs at unnamed people, some of whom see the events of the last year differently.
Some of the incidents behind the scenes will be kept private, and note there is a missing word in today’s printed Camden New Journal – not deliberate, it’s been corrected online – to make it clear that Hamish did not resign, he says ‘he was resigned’. There remains some tension, and among local organisers a defensive feeling that they did the best they could while lacking counsellor qualifications.
More broadly, Hamish has said he is hopeful that his comments will help others. And if done in the right way, talking about mental health is surely a positive step. The fact it’s still seen as brave probably shows we have further to go but public discussion has improved in recent years, the stigma around mental health has been fought, and there’s been a greater acceptance and understanding that we are all susceptible.
It’s better recognised that talking about the curious make-up of what goes on inside all of our heads is not something to be ashamed of. Here you go: I wish I checked these blogposts for typos as many times as I check I’ve turned the iron off and locked the back door every morning. You should see how long it takes when it’s my turn to shut the office. In covering Hamish’s openness about his difficulties today and including lots of options for care and support, I hope it serves his ambition that ‘if just one person sees this and seeks some help when they need it, or feels a little less alone then that’s fantastic.’
From my experience, Hamish on form is an intelligent, witty guy, and he’s a young man whose life should not be defined by a council election, his relationships with local members at this one moment in time, however strained they got, or even his quite startling tweets this week. And most of all, not by the fact he has suffered from depression. He says he is safe and getting care. We can only hope so, and wish him well with his recovery.