AM Bethan Jenkins hits out at internet trolling
A POLITICIAN campaigning on mental health awareness has criticised the "point and laugh" mentality of internet trollers.
Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Bethan Jenkins was caught drink-driving last October and described her actions as a cry for help because she was suffering from depression.
As well as campaigning for better awareness and understanding, she has advised people with depression to seek help.
Now the regional AM for South Wales West has spoken out against so-called trolls — those who post offensive or upsetting comments online — following a response to one of her tweets.
It stated: "That last tweet makes no sense at all. You drunk again or just high on medication?"
Ms Jenkins, who was suspended from the party for a time following her conviction, said: "Since returning to work, I've been determined to work with mental health sufferers and charities to overcome both the problems and the stigma that they often face.
"On Monday, I had a really useful meeting with the charity Gofal, and agreed a programme of work with them.
"At the meeting we discussed, at some considerable length, the use of public role models to improve awareness.
"The comment I received on Twitter that evening gives some indication of the stigma that mental health sufferers face on a daily basis."
Ms Jenkins added: "Effectively, it's point and laugh. And while — in the minds of some — people who have mental health issues are little better than Victorian freaks, we have a long way to go until it is commonly accepted that this is an illness.
"It requires recognition and treatment in just the same way as any other illness."
Mrs Jenkins was stopped by police after driving erratically at 1.30am on October 14 last year.
She has said: "It was just some sort of cry for help. That was what it was more than anything."
She diagnosed herself with depression after reading about the condition online.
A car crash on the Rhigos mountain in 2005 also left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, causing panic attacks.
"I'm much less concerned for myself than I am for those sufferers who find it hard to have a voice, find it difficult to speak out, and who have to suffer in silence," she said of the trolling.
"Comments of this kind, while aimed at me, have the potential to affect all mental health sufferers.
"They will not encourage anyone who read them to come forward and admit to having these problems. Instead, they will feel isolated and alone."