I have never met Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, but I could not help but sit up and take notice when he said publicly that he is back on anti-depressants to help him fight his mental illness.
It is a brave and admirable thing to talk about illness in such a public way, and in doing so, he raises awareness and clearly helps others who might not have the strength to come forward – whatever their problem – and seek professional help.
Mr Campbell says he has been on medication for the past six months following a “bad bout” of the illness last year. How terribly sad too for him when he said he was unable to “put his finger” on what makes him depressed.
Mr Campbell, who is the ambassador for The Mirror’s mental health campaign added: “I had a really bad bout, tried to fight it off, but after a while got medical help.”
When couples or individuals walk through my door seeking therapy – either to try to move their relationship to a safer space or get over a failed one – it is important to remember that what they are doing is a responsible and reasonable thing. There is, in my opinion, no stigma attached to seeking professional help. On the contrary, it is courageous. I understand that it can be daunting, but so often we, our family and friends are ill-equipped to help us sort through some of life’s hurdles.
And it is with this same light that I look at the mental health problems currently facing Mr Campbell and admire his openness, honesty and frankness in trying to deal with this.
Some time ago, he wrote on a blog for the Huffington Post: “I do not always know what makes me depressed. What I do know is that I am currently on medication for a particularly bad bout which struck a few months ago, without warning and with real venom, which plunged me into an emptiness and mental pain I have known before, and which my psychiatrist felt required a sustained period on a new drug that I had not tried before. I get fed up taking it, because I hate drugs, but the depression has definitely eased, all but those closest to me have probably not noticed anything, and I reckon within a few weeks I will be off it, until the next time.”
Sadly, for Mr Campbell, now the “next time” is here again.
He said that his partner and mother of his three children had always been supportive as was his former boss, Mr Blair.
Mr Campbell added: “I said to Tony three or four times that I was struggling. Being able to feel I could be open and transparent about how I was feeling was really important.”
Mr Campbell is backing the Time to Change petition – which calls for an end to mental health discrimination in the workplace.