AN MP has spoken out about his struggle with mental health problems to try and encourage others to do likewise.

Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, has opened up about past personal challenges which he says left him at crisis point, unable to experience joy and having lost hope for the future.

In a blog published today (August 14), he describes facing parental divorce, failed relationships and prolonged periods of loneliness.

In a bid to improve mental health services across Bury, Mr Lewis has also launched a campaign, 'Talking about mental health'.

He said: "At crisis points in my life I have withdrawn from all human contact, been unable to get out of bed, obsessed over past incidents in a futile quest to change them, felt unable to experience any joy and lost all hope for the future.

"I've focused on the negatives in my life and refused to accept the many positives. I’ve often panicked at the thought of any human contact while being scared of being alone. Every conversation however brief has required tremendous effort.

"During most of these periods of depression I have felt unable to reach out for personal or professional support. Because of my public role I felt unable to trust even close friends in case my confidence was breached and my reputation damaged. I was reluctant to seek professional help as this would mean being labelled. I wanted to be strong for my family not needy. The consequences of this isolation were long periods of depression and repeat cycles of behaviour which could have been curtailed and in the darkest times a serious deterioration in my health which could have been avoided."

Mr Lewis said it was as a result of the kindness of others that he is on the road to recovery. He pointed to medication for a limited time, counselling or therapy, arranging social time with friends and family, exercise, and faith as potentially helpful for mental health sufferers.

Mr Lewis said he felt he had a duty to share his own experiences if he is to encourage others to do the same.

At the campaign launch at the Creative Living Centre in Prestwich, he petitioned the Government to pledge more funding for mental health services and urged the voluntary sector to help with prevention and support.

He called for a greater emphasis on early intervention and prevention within the community rather than waiting to treat people when they are in hospital.

He said: "For too long mental health has been the Cinderella service with inadequate levels of funding.

"Mental health must be given parity with physical health in a modern NHS and care system. It cannot be right that therapeutic in-patient support or talking therapies are still predominantly only available to people who can afford to pay or have private insurance schemes."

Mental health issues affect about 2,500 children and young people in Bury, aged between five and 16, according to the latest figures for the borough.

In addition, 11.35 per cent of over 65s in the town suffer from mental health problems.

Mr Lewis has started a petition, which will be presented to Parliament, the Government and the local NHS.

He has called for improved access to face-to-face talking therapies, more community-based support activities in partnership with the voluntary sector, access to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) support for families and schools, improved standard and capacity of NHS inpatient services, and for policies and services to be co-produced with people who suffer from mental health issues and their families.

As part of the campaign, Mr Lewis has invited residents to share their experiences of dealing with challenges around mental health, and suggestions for how things can be improved.

Liz Thompson, chief officer of Creative Living Centre, said: "I know how important it is, when people are struggling with mental health issues, to be able to get the right support at the right time.

"I'm really pleased that Mr Lewis is as passionate about mental health and wellbeing as we are, and is showing his support for mental health charities such as ours through his campaign."

To sign the petition visit