PROZAC: Bizarre Behavior: Member of Parliament: England

Paragraph eight reads:  “Even before the scandal broke,
when he was the frontbench home affairs spokesman, he was regularly taking
He thinks at least a fifth of MPs have mental problems,
although he says:  ‘Round here it is a taboo subject. Very few will admit
to not coping with the stress. You can’t be vulnerable or weak if you are
waiting for the next promotion’.”

Paragraph 22 reads:  “When the
news broke he fled over the garden wall and drove to Cornwall while Belinda took
the children to Austria skiing. Depression soon took hold.  ‘I was just
drowning. I was totally out of control in my mind. There was no immediate sense
of perspective for months. Each day was about survival with sleeping tablets
and Prozac‘.

From The Times
September 19, 2009

Mark Oaten: my dark days should serve as a warning to other

Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson

Oaten is sitting in his eyrie in Westminster, wearing a blue and white striped
shirt, sipping from a carton of Ribena and ruminating on the mental health of

Three years ago this clean-cut Home Counties Liberal Democrat
pin-up was exposed by the News of the World for making regular visits to
rent boys. Overnight he saw his leadership ambitions destroyed and his marriage
almost disintegrate. Now he has written a book, Screwing Up, describing
the emotional pressures and psychological flaws that lead politicians to

As we talk for more than an hour he is frank about his
battle with depression, his midlife crisis, the sex abuse that he suffered as a
child and the craving for love that he thinks drives people into politics. Since
his exposure, he has been amazed, he says, by how many of his parliamentary
colleagues have opened up about their own problems.

“So many have had
similar experiences in terms of feeling very depressed and struggling with their
marriages. You get any group of MPs together now and they will talk about how
down they get. It’s worse than other professions. One of the reasons for writing
the book was to explain the pressures on MPs.”

From the moment Mr Oaten
won his Winchester seat by two votes in 1997, he was marked out as a rising
star. But he quickly became overwhelmed by the demands on his time.

never stopped getting into a dinner jacket, going to annual dinners, being on
Newsnight, attending Remembrance services. It was relentless,” he says.
“It has a huge impact on you as a human being. I felt that everyone owned me. I
got worn out and grumpy. I was living on adrenalin, fire-fighting the whole
time. I had the constituency and Westminster. The family was always left to
last. I had endless rows with my wife, Belinda.”

For almost a decade, he
found it impossible to stop. “I felt I was on an escalator. The ego element came
into it. I couldn’t say no. It is almost an addiction, a drug. It was as if I
injected myself with an adrenalin burst to get through an hour-long episode of
Question Time and then I would pay the price afterwards with stomach
aches and other pains. I was always ill.”

Even before the scandal broke,
when he was the frontbench home affairs spokesman, he was regularly taking
antidepressants. He thinks at least a fifth of MPs have mental problems,
although he says: “Round here it is a taboo subject. Very few will admit to not
coping with the stress. You can’t be vulnerable or weak if you are waiting for
the next promotion.”

There is, he says, “something in the DNA of
politicians which makes them vulnerable to mood swings and being depressed. They
are likely to be obsessive, risk-taking and slightly depressive”.

explanation is that certain character flaws make people want to stand for
Parliament. “My risk-taking makes me a good politician and a bad one. But the
risk element is only one side. It is even more common for MPs to need to be
loved. Ego and needing to be liked are dangerous traits.”

Many MPs are,
he believes, damaged souls. “You seek your parents’ approval, then your
family’s, then the party’s and then the voters’. I see politicians in their
early thirties doing exactly what I was doing ­ running around the
television studios, checking their BlackBerries, taking every opportunity. I
want to say, ‘Calm down, go home to your family’. I wish someone had said that
to me.”

The pressure is, in his view, made worse by the difficulty in
making real friendships at Westminster. “There is a bonding between MPs, but it
can’t be genuine ­ you are always ultimately competing. You are rivals.” He
hopes that his memoirs will serve as a warning to other politicians. “I would
like them to learn from someone who screwed it up and got it wrong.”

Oaten’s downfall was spectacular. When he saw two journalists outside his front
door one morning in January 2006 he had no idea that they had discovered his
liaisons with male prostitutes. After speaking to them he had to go inside and
tell his wife everything while their two young daughters carried on having
breakfast in the next room. Even now he cannot quite explain it to himself, let
alone to her.

“Everyone is desperate for an easy answer about why I went
to an escort. I had doubts about my sexuality, I wanted to experiment, I was
stressed out, feeling low about getting older. The press kept talking about the
fact I was losing my hair. I was feeling out of love with myself.”

rent boy was 23. “I wanted to recapture my youth and be near a young person
­ it was important that he was younger. I had a belly appearing and bags
under my eyes. I wanted to experiment with younger people. It is not uncommon
for 40-year-olds to want to experiment sexually.”

He found the number at
the back of a magazine. “It was very late at night when I went to his flat,
there was an element of risk-taking. I knew it was dangerous, there was an
adrenalin element.”

Over the next six months he visited regularly. The

News of the World said that he enjoyed three-in-a-bed “romps” and
“humiliation”. “We never actually had intercourse. We talked, had a conversation
about where he lived, but I was only there for about half an hour each time. We
didn’t watch TV or relax together. He had a flatmate ­ that was the other
one. He didn’t become a friend. I don’t even know his real name.”

were lurid allegations made, which he says are untrue. “There were the most
graphic descriptions on websites about what had happened, which were wrong but I
couldn’t sue. It would drag everything up.” It was almost a relief to him when
the story came out. “I could get counselling, talk to Belinda and try to feel
more comfortable about who I am.”

His wife is a farmer’s daughter from
Hampshire who was stunned by his revelation but eventually agreed to stay with
him. “She knows that I am not some six-foot-four rugby-playing macho guy. I am
comfortable being around gay friends ­ this wasn’t some very heterosexual
guy who went off and did this.”

He had never had any gay experiences in
his teenage years but he reveals in the book that he was sexually abused as a
child. “It was a two-year period when I was 9 and 10. It was clearly
inappropriate and involved me sexually massaging a considerably older man. It
felt perfectly normal; it is so obviously not.”

Psychotherapy has taught
him that people often subconsciously try to re-create their first sexual
experience. “The theory is that if it was shameful and guilty you will try to
re-create that but I’m reluctant to say this explains [what I did] because I
don’t think it’s the whole reason.”

When the news broke he fled over the
garden wall and drove to Cornwall while Belinda took the children to Austria
skiing. Depression soon took hold. “I was just drowning. I was totally out of
control in my mind. There was no immediate sense of perspective for months. Each
day was about survival with sleeping tablets and Prozac.”

After three
years of counselling, his marriage is still together but he says that it has
changed. “We are best friends but there is no doubt in my mind that the marriage
is not how it was. It’s just a different relationship and it always will be.

“What’s happened has changed us fundamentally. There are trust issues.
We’re not the innocent couple that got married in 1992.”

He doesn’t know
whether his gay experimentation was a phase. “It’s part of me. I’m not one thing
or the other on the spectrum. [Belinda and I] haven’t made promises or pledges
to each other. We’re very realistic about how we are doing as a couple.”

So might he do it again?

“I’ve been very blunt with her in terms
of my feelings. I’m comfortable with where I am, with the kids and my home life
but I’m not going to start making some great renewal of marriage vows. It
doesn’t feel right for where we are at the moment.”

At Westminster, and
in the constituency, people were broadly supportive. “They said, ‘You’ve been an
idiot but you’re still a good MP’.”

During the expenses row, MPs sought
him out and asked him how to deal with public vilification.

“A lot of
colleagues came up to me and said, ‘Now we know what you went through’. I gave
them some cuddles and I gave them some tears. There were some very upset people.
I think some were [suicidal]. Politicians have been banned from complaining
about this but I’m happy to say that whatever the wrongs and rights of the
situation there were some MPs who were pushed close to the limit in what they
could take emotionally. It’s the toughest ever time to be an MP.”

He is
leaving the Commons at the next election but has one piece of advice for his old
friend Nick Clegg at the start of the Liberal Democrat conference this weekend.
If there is a hung Parliament, he should not allow the Liberal Democrats to prop
up Gordon Brown.

“What I would say to Nick is that you have to recognise
that some in the Conservative Party might represent the forces of progressive
politics. When I look back on issues to do with ID cards, control orders, terror
suspects ­ our liberal allies were the Conservatives.”

Mr Oaten is
looking for a new career. He has just finished filming a TV documentary about
living in a tower block for Channel 4. Now he is looking for company
directorships and charity jobs. “I said no to going into the jungle for I’m a
… and to taking part in Celebrity Wife Swap because I was
nervous but not because I thought they were beneath me. I don’t think people
should be snotty about things like that because it’s a piece of fun. I look at
Neil and Christine Hamilton and I think, ‘Good for them’. They found themselves in this situation and they coped and got in with it and did their thing.”

Screwing Up by Mark Oaten is published by Biteback, Sept 25;

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Ann Blake Tracy, Executive Director,
International Coalition for Drug Awareness
(DrugAwareness.Org & SSRIstories.Net)
Author: ”Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? – Our Serotonin Nightmare – The Complete Truth of the Full Impact of Antidepressants Upon Us & Our World” & Withdrawal CD “Help! I Can’t Get Off My Antidepressant!”

She has specialized since 1990 in adverse reactions to serotonergic medications (such as Prozac, Sarafem, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Celexa, Lexapro, Effexor, Serzone, Remeron, Anafranil, Fen-Phen, Redux and Meridia as well as the new atypical antipsychotics Zyprexa, Geodon, Seroquel and Abilify), as well as pain killers, and has testified before the FDA and congressional subcommittee members on antidepressants.

WITHDRAWAL WARNING: In sharing this information about adverse reactions to antidepressants I always recommend that you also give reference to my CD on safe withdrawal, Help! I Can’t Get Off My Antidepressant!, so that we do not have more people dropping off these drugs too quickly – a move which I have warned from the beginning can be even more dangerous than staying on the drugs!

WITHDRAWAL HELP: You can find the hour and a half long CD on safe and effective withdrawal helps here: And if you need additional consultations with Ann Blake-Tracy, you can book one at or sign up for one of the memberships for the International Coalition for Drug Awareness which includes free consultations as one of the benefits of that particular membership plan. You can even get a whole month of access to the withdrawal CD with tips on rebuilding after the meds, all six of my DVDs, hundreds of radio interviews, lectures, TV interviews I have done over the years PLUS my book on antidepressants with more information than you will find anywhere else for only $30 membership for a month (that is only $5 more than the book alone would cost) at (Definitely the best option to save outrageous postage charges for those out of the country!)


  1. The penny has not dropped yet in Great Rule Britannia. That story almost reads like some textbook example of what Prozac does to you right ? The unusual changes in sexuality. The lack of fear of punishment. Loss of wisdom, control of action and empathy for other’s and one’s self. I feel sorry for the guy. At least on the surface he does not seem to realise what is happening to him but sadly this almost certainly looks like a case of the first stages of a chemical lobotomy.

    The safety concerns with the use of these drugs are just astounding. Pilots on Prozac ? What about politicians considering starting a war ? Or taking decisions about the use of the countries money ? It just boggles the mind and brings new meaning to the expression “has the world gone crazy?”. Actually I’ve been reading Commonsense Rebellion – Taking Back your Life from Drugs, Shrinks, Corporations and a World Gone Crazy by Bruce E. Levine (search for it on google books). The problem in the UK is that the information is just not out there (yet) and it will take some time to get it out there. I believe it will happen eventually and the penny will be dropping.

  2. Hey Barney! So good to hear from you! I tell people all the time about what the drugs did to you. You need to drop me an e-mail.

    Yes you are right about this case. HOW VERY SAD that he and his wife have no clue that all of this was the result of his use of an antidepressant! Just like Pastor Ted Haggard here in the US if you heard about that over there. He too is still questioning his sexuality. But then that effect of the drugs is even stronger than I initially thought it was when antidepressants can cause male fish to be born with ovaries, that is much stronger than just changing some thoughts in one’s head to change sexual behavior! If they ever put that side effect on the label the use of these drugs would plummet!! 🙂

    These drugs just screw one’s life up in so many ways . . . . let me count the ways, huh?!

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