Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dave Batters, depression, and the toll of politics

Dave Batters, a former MP not yet 40, committed suicide last week. Batters had been an honourable member from 2004 until last fall when he announced he would not run again on account of his deep and debilitating anxiety and depression. He was overcome by this last week. 

Stephen Harper gave a moving speech at his funeral yesterday. Bourrie presents it in full and speculates, quite reasonably, that Harper has probably struggled with the black dog as well. 

We ask a lot of our politicians. We expect them to work hard for us, to fawn over us when we meet them, to live lives free of foibles, and to do all of this under the ignobility of assumed dishonesty and selfishness. It is a terrible burden. We should not be surprised that those lacking self-awareness and not lacking in ego are perhaps overrepresented in our hallowed chambers. But it should also not surprise us that politics often destroys people's lives. 

I am not sure it did in the case of Batters, by the way. Quite the opposite, he is likely a testament to how individuals burdened with depression can still achieve greatness, and do so against obstacles more difficult than most can even begin to comprehend. It takes a special strength to struggle against the dark every morning and still make something of one's life. Batters' life, however short, is a testament to this. But also, quite sadly, to how far we have to go in understanding the pervasiveness of depression. Not to mention its treatment and the prevention of its more terrible ends. 

At times like this, one hopes more than anything that Batters' family is fully acquainted with the admiration others held for their husband, son and brother. 

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