Opinion: First term councillor diary – mental health, the Council and me

In 1998 I lived 500 yards from Mick Philpott who was later convicted of killing 6 of his children. I’d met him on one occasion and was told even then he was an odd individual. Never did I expect to see him on the telly, but, having lived in that area, hearing what he had done did not surprise me. There used to be little hope in humanity in a place like Allenton, Derby. In 1998 I’d left with no qualifications, was living in a caravan and had lost my second job in three weeks working in the local bakery. I was 16 and it’s fair to say I thought “That’s it, life is over. Patrick is destined for F-all in life.”

Over the next seven years I had a lot of similar moments to that feeling, being homeless on a few occasions and bumbling along. But on each occasion that I felt like ‘this was it’, unbeknown to myself, I was learning strategies that would make me stronger for the next challenge life would throw.

Although I’ve got better, even to this day I have problems with mental health and am currently receiving counselling. The difference today (at least until the election) is that I sit on the executive of Stockport Council in charge of Economic Development and Regeneration, I’m the Proud Dad of two little lads and, for the purposes of this story most importantly, I’m a truly proud member of the Liberal Democrats for campaigning for mental health to be given the same status as physical health.

From my experience of suffering with ADHD and clinical depression I am working with Stockport Homes and Life Leisure to get micro gyms into community centres to boost the physical activity offer in deprived areas in an unintimidating environment. This is along with my push for a local employment premium, that has shown signs of being more successful than the works programme in Stockport, and mobile work clubs that are designed to support the unemployed in the whole of Stockport Borough not just deprived areas. My experience has inspired these pursuits and it’s being a Liberal Democrat councillor that has allowed me to get these policies implemented locally.

I should say I started political life as a Labour Councillor, but it is only becoming a Lib Dem that has given me the opportunity to genuinely at least try and help people.

I’m up for election in May for the first time as a Lib Dem and if Manor elects a Labour Councillor in my place I’ll be gutted, but as a passionate democrat I will be happy in the knowledge that it was a democratic decision and that the system is alive and kicking.

I consider myself a relatively normal person who just happened to get to be a councillor; although politics is a hard game and I’ve felt very disillusioned at times, overall I’ve loved the last four years and would recommend it to anyone that believes in changing the world. My only advice would be, be humble, be true to yourself, hold your nerve and fight your corner and you’ll do yourself proud. My only hope is I’ve taken my own advice. ☺️

To all Lib Dem candidates fighting the general or local election in May good luck, God Bless and I’ll see you at the finish line.

* Patrick McAuley is a councillor in Stockport