Councillor speaks candidly about depression after ‘relentless criticism’
Jenny Mulholland asks for help and advice but says she will not walk away from Town Hall
20 June, 2019 — By Samantha Booth
A COUNCILLOR has spoken candidly about her mental health and the demands of a role at the Town Hall.
Jenny Mulholland, a Labour councillor in Gospel Oak, asked for help on how to cope with some aspects of council life in late-night Twitter messages.
“I don’t post tweets like this often, but my mental health is poor at the moment and I’d value support,” said Cllr Mulholland. “Anyone (councillors or otherwise) got advice for how to deal with those residents telling me I’m incompetent, obstructive, uncaring, unprofessional, dim, bad attitude?”
She added: “I have to go to a council-related meeting at 9.30 tomorrow morning, but instead of sleeping I’m up at 1am stressing about not doing a good enough job for people. Help appreciated.”
The 34-year-old said her council role and keeping up with emails, social media posts and texts, alongside a full-time job as project manager at a Kentish Town tech company was a challenge.
Dozens of people replied, including fellow and former councillors, offering support.
She told the New Journal she had taken to Twitter “partly because it was 1am and my boyfriend was away and there wasn’t anyone else around, but also I think it’s important to speak out about things that affect people”.
She added: “I think everybody kind of thinks we are these all powerful beings who can solve all problems but actually I think it’s important for people to understand that we are just human beings as well and we have our own vulnerabilities but sharing that doesn’t make us weak, it just makes us human – and that’s a strength really.”
She said she had no plans to walk away from the role, which she claimed in a 2017 by-election. Her predecessor, Maeve McCormack, said she had quit the council because she had been priced out of the borough.
Asked whether the life of a councillor had not been as she had expected when she first stood for election, Cllr Mulholland said: “I didn’t really have many expectations of what the role was going to be. I knew I was going to be representing my own area so that it was going to be quite a commitment.”
She added: “Basically I’m just doing it because I’m somebody who likes to help people. I think fair enough when people criticise policies or say there’s a lack of action or something like that.
The council had helped with support after she was diagnosed with depression, she said, and now it was important to show that it was normal for people to talk about mental health. Several other councillors from other local authorities have contacted her, and they are looking to put together a support network. The Association of Labour Councillors, meanwhile, has made councillor mental health and wellbeing a key campaign in recent years.
Cllr Mulholland said: “The thing that’s been difficult is certain people relentlessly criticising. Either criticising or questioning or giving you a list of things to do, then saying: ‘Why haven’t you done all the things I told you do to?’”
She said one of the worst incidents was when she was shouted at in a cafe, but did not regret becoming a councillor despite the abuse.
The messages of advice and help has been welcome, she said, adding: “It’s going to teach me things I needed to learn anyway, about how to manage my time better, how to ask for help, how to delegate more, and how to be effective but without feeling you have to do everything.”