Chronic migraine forces MP to quit

By: Rob Music, Chief Executive, The Migraine Trust

24th September 2023

This week, the news that Conservative MP Dehenna Davison has resigned as Levelling Up Minister due to the impact of chronic migraine has sparked a conversation about the impact of migraine at work, and what it means to be living with migraine. 

Dialogue on social media in response to the announcement has highlighted a distinct lack of awareness of migraine as a complex health condition. Comments and replies read like a bingo card of migraine misconceptions: ‘just a headache’, ‘an excuse’ and ‘a lie’ all make an appearance. 

Migraine is a very poorly understood condition, and those who live with it will have undoubtedly heard all of the above reactions countless times. While it can be upsetting to hear, it also allows an opportunity for education.

“Some days I’m fine, but on others it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with the demands of ministerial life.” – Statement posted to Dehenna Davison’s social media accounts. 

"Dehenna Davison’s experience of chronic migraine sparks a much-needed conversation about migraine in the workplace and beyond"

By: Rob Music, Chief Executive, The Migraine Trust

Migraine in the workplace 

Migraine impacts people in all areas of life, and the workplace is no different. 

People with migraine often need very little help from their employer, but this small amount of support can be decisive in enabling them to work effectively with migraine. 

Not receiving support from their employer can have very serious consequences for people with migraine. 

Indeed, even with support from an employer, managing migraine at work can be incredibly difficult. Recent research from The Migraine Trust showed that: 

34% 34% of people living with migraine have felt discriminated against at work due to their migraine

43% Almost half (43%) of people with migraine reported that their workplace did not believe them when they had to take sick leave due to a migraine attack

45% 45% have felt that their managers didn’t take their migraine seriously

Like Dehenna Davison, many of those living with migraine experience significant impacts on their careers. The same research found that: 

  • a third (29%) have had to move from full-time to part-time work
  • 33% have had to leave their job altogether.

Migraine, stress and mental health 

We know now that our physical health and mental health are closely linked, so it is no surprise that migraine and stress often go hand in hand.  

Regardless of whether we work in Westminster or as a Web Developer, the pressures of an increasingly demanding work culture can result in significant work-related stress for many employees. The knock-on impact can have a detrimental effect on sleep, eating habits and general wellbeing which can all be potential trigger factors for migraine attacks. 

Of respondents surveyed on healthcare experiences in 2021, 32% said migraine negatively affected their mental health. 

Managing workplace stress is therefore key, and employers have a role to play in supporting staff wellbeing.

Whether you are starting a new job or have been in your role for a while our Migraine in the Workplace Toolkit may help to manage the impact of your migraine in the workplace. 

Smashing the stigma 

When high-profile public figures talk about migraine, it helps to reduce the stigma of the condition. This is important because stigma can be far-reaching, spreading beyond workplaces and can even lead to people with migraine not receiving the care they need. Because migraine is quite often a hidden condition, those with large platforms can really help to shine a light on it. Dotted among the replies referring to migraine as ‘just a headache’ on Dehenna Davison’s social media posts are comments that offer information, support and insight into living with migraine. These comments, and the discussions prompted, help to normalise a condition that can otherwise feel isolating and shrouded in stigma.

Migraine Awareness Week 

This year for Migraine Awareness Week (24th – 30th September), we’re highlighting the fact that, as a result of the condition being so poorly understood, people with migraine are being let down. Many struggle to access the care and treatment they need. 

Join the conversation on social media and share your story and help us call for action, because people with migraine deserve better! #MigraineAwarenessWeek