Best Company | New Zealand Business Magazine

Politics: The "Mental Health" Card as an Excuse

Golriz Ghahraman - Another Case?

Green Member of Parliament charged with thousands of dollars of theft

Golriz Ghahraman charged for Shoplifting | Green Party MP

The current political climate reveals a discernible trend where public figures embroiled in controversies increasingly point to mental health issues as a contributing factor to their actions. This occurrence, notably common among politicians on the progressive side of the spectrum, sparks debate over the interplay of mental health awareness and personal responsibility.

The Golriz Ghahraman Situation

This trend is well illustrated by Golriz Ghahraman, a Green Party MP in New Zealand, who stands accused of shoplifting from high-end retail establishments. Facing police inquiries into several events, Ghahraman has attributed her behavior to intense stress reactions and unresolved trauma, according to a mental health professional’s evaluation. While it is essential to prioritize mental health, this brings into question the degree to which it can excuse an individual’s choices and actions.

Political Deflection Patterns

Ghahraman’s situation is not an isolated occurrence. For example, Tory Whanau, the mayor of Wellington, has admitted to issues with alcohol following an incident at a public venue. Although seeking treatment is commendable, it also necessitates a consideration of what this means for public servants.

The Nuance of Public Apologies

The apologies that follow such revelations often include explanations that obscure a clear acceptance of fault, leading to skepticism regarding the genuineness of their contrition. The growing tendency to employ mental health explanations risks becoming a prevalent tactic to diminish full responsibility.

Impact on Public Confidence

The repetitive invocation of mental health by political figures as a defense can undermine public confidence. It suggests a discrepancy wherein political figures might sidestep complete accountability by invoking mental health, thus weakening the faith in the integrity and transparency of the political framework.

Media’s Role

Media entities play a crucial role in forming public opinion and ensuring accountability. Their reporting must strike a careful balance, emphasizing the personal failures of individuals while not overlooking broader concerns like the nexus of mental health and political judgment.

Seeking Equilibrium

Affirming and assisting mental health is indispensable but should not overshadow the necessity for accountability in the realm of governance. A measured approach that acknowledges the tribulations politicians face while upholding a pledge to transparency and integrity is key to maintaining public trust.

In this milieu, where public figures use mental health as a shield against full accountability, we must reassess our political structures. While it is paramount to address mental health issues, they must not become an automatic exemption from accountability. The need for leaders who remain answerable, even in the face of personal difficulties, is imperative. Striking the right balance between compassion and responsibility is crucial for cultivating a political climate that is both transparent and esteemed.

Echoing the words of former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, “The buck stops here,” we are reminded of the critical importance of accountability in governance. Upholding this standard is essential to prevent mental health issues from turning into a recurrent defense against accountability in the political domain.

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