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Shock resignation highlights struggle against mental illness

PUBLISHED: 08:13 21 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:57 07 September 2010

THIS week s shock resignation of Cllr Chris Basson highlights the struggle of many who battle against mental illness. Mr Basson, a Cambridge University graduate, was elected in 2006 with a promise to represent the tenants on the Chalcots estate, whe-re he

THIS week's shock resignation of Cllr Chris Basson highlights the struggle of many who battle against mental illness.

Mr Basson, a Cambridge University graduate, was elected in 2006 with a promise to represent the tenants on the Chalcots estate, whe-re he has lived with his mother for many years.

In the months following his surprise victory it became clear his mental health problems, which included nervous breakdowns, were interfering with his role as a councillor.

He was rarely seen at Town Hall meetings and one resident of the Chalcots who asked him to deal with a problem said he never heard from him again.

Another close neighbour of Mr Basson revealed the extent of his plight: "He has become very withdrawn and isolated. He doesn't do anything really, he just sits indoors. He needs help."

Other neighbours told of visitors who would co-me and go from Mr Bas-son's flat frequently thro-ughout the day and night.

Lib Dem leader Keith Moffitt admitted to the Ham&High how he had lost contact with him in recent months.

During that time Mr Basson said it became clear his health problems, which were diagnosed in 1996 as Bipolar Affective Disorder, were getting the better of him.

In a joint letter to constituents, the two other Belsize councillors Ar-thur Graves and Alexis Rowell said in support of their former colleague: "There are many examples of people with manic depression who have managed to make valuable contributions to public life including Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale and Winston Churchill."

Founder of the Mental Health charity SANE, Marjorie Wallace CBE, said it is hard to make a judgement on whether he should have been a councillor in the first place.

"You cannot kick people out if they have mental illnesses. People with Bipolar can be quite well and quite effective. You cannot always know when relapses happen. If this is what he has suffered from and is prepared to talk about it we would obviously welcome that because it will encourage others to come forward."

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