The SPD politician Michael Roth surprisingly withdraws from politics for some time. The reason for this is a state of exhaustion, the 51-year-old told the “Spiegel”. “I was afraid of failure. Panic about what’s coming. I didn’t know that until then. It was clear then: I need help,” says Roth, who has since sought treatment.
According to Roth, the difficulties began in the 2021 federal election campaign. Deadlines cost him more energy than usual. “When I ran behind schedule, I sometimes panicked,” says Roth. He also suffered from severe mood swings, felt empty inside, suddenly felt unknown fears and failed in everyday life with things like shopping. “I had the feeling that I was jumping from floe to floe in the Arctic Ocean and they gradually got smaller.”
Roth was nevertheless able to move back into the Bundestag, his party colleague Olaf Scholz became Chancellor and he became chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag. But his condition has not improved. “It’s a kick to have defended your mandate after a sometimes damn difficult election campaign. And there’s a tremendous appeal in looking at how many times I’m quoted, how many appearances I have, how many followers. That’s the currency today, and it’s hard to break away from it,” says Roth, who has been a member of the Bundestag since 1998.
In the meantime, Roth says he is doing better, he has informed family and friends as well as his employees. His team now gives him longer breaks between appointments. In June, Roth would then like to withdraw completely for four weeks on the advice of his doctor – and also do without social networks. He took sick leave for that. He considers this to be one of the reasons why he couldn’t switch off anymore.
“You make excuses. You go to the bathroom, say when you’re on vacation that you’re communicating with friends, and you’re on social networks,” says Roth. One is constantly tempted to participate in current events. “The mobile phone can be a crazy addictive substance.” At the same time, he hasn’t been able to finish a book for three years. “Sometimes I’ve asked myself: Where’s the kick in the book now? And if there wasn’t, I put the book aside again.”
Foreign politician Roth distinguished himself especially since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, in which he repeatedly made the position of the federal government clear. “Ukraine can and must win this war,” he said recently on ZDF. For him, a victory for Ukraine in the war with Russia is mainly a matter of preserving the country’s sovereignty.
This means that Ukraine will remain free, democratic, sovereign, its territorial integrity preserved and that it has a chance of becoming a member of the European Union. “It would be a victory for Ukraine. It’s not about Ukraine attacking Russian territory.” How territorial integrity can be maintained is also being discussed in Ukraine, for example to what extent the price of recapturing areas occupied by Russia is worth it.
Most recently, he received the President of the Ukrainian Parliament, Rusla Stefanchuk, with the President of the Bundestag, Bärbel Bas, and the Chair of the European Committee, Toni Hofreiter. It was also about Germany’s arms deliveries to Ukraine, which is discussed again and again. “It’s more complicated than it sometimes seems. I don’t accuse anyone of any bad intentions. But we all now know that the Bundeswehr’s ability to deliver from its own stocks is very limited,” Roth said a few days ago on Deutschlandfunk.
Roth would like to return after the summer break. “I love my job. I burn for it,” he continues. “But I now know that you have to take excessive demands seriously. Otherwise you can quickly find yourself in an existential crisis.”