Alastair Campbell talks about depression

Alastair Campbell talks about depression

Former political aide and author, Alastair Campbell recalls the conversation he had with former prime minister Tony Blair about his experiences of depression and why talking is important for social change.

Video transcript: Alastair Campbell talks about depression

Alastair CampbellIt’s time to talk, it’s time to change.

My name’s Alastair Campbell. I had a breakdown in the mid 80s and as a result of that I realised that I get depression from time to time. What I would say is that in general and in theory I’m very very good at being open. In practice, at times, if I am feeling just a bit kind of down and fed up with life I’m probably not but I’m conscious of the need to be. And therefore sometimes that will trigger me at the right moment to hopefully say and do the right thing.

When Tony Blair asked me to work for him in 1994 just after John Smith died and he became the Leader of the Labour Party and he asked me to work for him. And I kind of knew he would but I wasn’t sure and one of the reasons I wasn’t sure was because I just thought “Well I’ve cracked up before. The pressure I’m going to come under is going to be way more intense than anything I’ve had before as a journalist so who knows?”

So I said I was going to take a month to think about it. It wasn’t the only reason I want to think about it, it was one of them. And he came out to France where we were on holiday to try and sort of talk me into it. And I was moving, I was definitely moving in that direction but I thought I kind of owed it to him to tell him what had happened in relation to my breakdown and what happened. So we were on a very, quite a long drive, we had to take his mother-in-law to Marseille Airport. So we took her up to the airport, dropped her off and then I told him on the drive back.

And so I’m driving and I’m talking away about all the stuff that happened in my head and the drink and the psychosis and the hospitalisation and getting arrested and all this sort of stuff. And I can see him kind of going “This is all a bit weird.” And he knew I’d had the breakdown because I’d known him for a long long time but I don’t think he ever knew quite, just what it had involved. And anyway so we’d yatter away like this and then eventually he said “Well look I’m not bothered if you’re not bothered.” And I said “Yes but what if I’m bothered.” He said “Well I’m still not bothered.”

And I thought that was a quite good signal. Because in a sense he was saying “Look I know all that’s happened but as far as I’m concerned I’ve made a bigger, deeper, broader judgement about you that I think you could do the job or want you to do the job. And I don’t think it’ll be a problem. And to be honest it never really was a problem after that.

I think it’s a very very difficult area this because all I can say is it’s always benefitted me to be open. I can’t in all honesty say to everybody in all of their different circumstances “It will benefit you to be open.” Because the truth is I’m afraid because of the stigma, because of the taboo, because of the discrimination that does sometimes exist, it could be worse for some people. And I think if all of us could somehow make the leap together to be more open then all of us the ill and the non ill would be better off.

Mental health blogs by Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell talks about telling Tony Blair about his depression – When Tony Blair asked Alastair Campbell to work for him in 1994, he revealed his mental health problems to the man who would be Prime Minister.

Media portrayal of depression: we’ve still got a long way to go – India Knight can be a good and interesting columnist so it was a real shame to read her ill-informed, irresponsible and plain wrong views on depression in The Sunday Times yesterday

News stories about Alastair Campbell and mental health

Alastair Campbell is Mind Champion of the Year – Accepting the award, Alastair said: “Change is happening, and I really feel we are close to the tipping point in terms of people’s greater understanding and society’s greater openness about mental illness. I am pleased and proud that people think I have played a part in that.”

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link to Evening Tele article here 

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Mental health readmission rate rising in Tayside

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Kirkcaldy film maker shines spotlight on coping with depression

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Link to Courier article here 

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‘I felt so worthless’: two teenagers on their mental health struggles

‘I felt so worthless’: two teenagers on their mental health struggles

Caitlin Dews, 18, Norton, North Yorkshire

I’ve struggled with my mental health for seven years. I’ve got anorexia, and depression and anxiety. It started at school when I was 11. I don’t remember the root causes. I just started being really anxious and restricting what I ate, and hiding food. I felt so worthless and horrible. I hated the way I looked. I started self-harming, my mood was really low and it all spiralled out of control.

I didn’t understand what was going on. After a while, I thought it was normal to feel like that. It’s only recently that I’ve started realising that a lot of people suffer.

When I was 14 a friend noticed I wasn’t eating and was really withdrawn and told a teacher. I was really angry and annoyed but, looking back, I’m glad she did that because I wouldn’t have said anything. They then told my parents and I was referred to child and adolescent mental health services. I still didn’t think anything was wrong with me.

My parents were heartbroken. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them. I’ve put them through so much. I was in hospital for just under a year and they had to visit me and see me in such a distressed state. I think they found it really tough and still do.

I felt I couldn’t go out for ages. Even now, when I go on public transport I get really anxious. At its worst I used to panic, my heart beat faster and I started shaking. My thoughts would race and I would think that everyone was staring at me and that something bad was going to happen. Everything was exaggerated. Most times, I felt like I deserved self-harming. It was like a punishment for eating or going out.

There are days when I feel more optimistic about my future. Things are still hard but I’m doing a lot better than I was. Quite a few people have told me that they struggle with anxiety. It’s not fair. I know some amazing and lovely people; they don’t deserve to be going through that.

Harvey Sparrow, 16, Badsey, Worcestershire

When I started my GCSEs, my school was really pushing everyone, saying we all had to do well and work hard. I’ve always been the sort of person who is very motivated but the stress started building slowly and I couldn’t handle it. The thought of going to school made me nervous and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. It carried on and I felt a lot of sadness and hopelessness. It was awful.

I started feeling really detached from myself. I didn’t feel in control of my body. It turned out that was a type of anxiety. My stomach felt like it was churning. I’d feel sick when I knew I didn’t have a stomach virus. I lost concentration and if there was even a small doubt about me doing well, I’d lose focus. I couldn’t deal with it. It got really dark at times. I felt there was no point in me being here because I wasn’t bringing anything to the world. I wasn’t making my life any better. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts. I told my dad and we went to see the doctor. It took a few appointments for them to take me seriously.

A lot of my friends have anxiety around school. I thought everyone else was OK because people didn’t show it. Some of them lose out on sleep, some sleep way too much and some are very depressed. They don’t see a point in living. I know what it’s like. But to hear them say things like that is shocking when in my eyes they’re amazing. I guess they would have said the same thing about me. It’s a weird situation.

When I talk to my dad he says he never wants anything bad to happen to me. Now I’m in a good place, I’m like: “Why would I ever think of ever hurting myself?” I don’t want to throw my life away just because I’m in a bad place.

 In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or emailjo@samaritans.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

 

Link to Guardian article here 

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Hundreds join Angus mental health group set up in wake of controversial Mulberry Unit closure

 

Jill Scott

More than 450 people have signed up to a self-help group set up in the wake of a mental health unit closure in Angus.

Brechin Community Council said the response to the Stop Mental Health Stigma association exposed a “huge gap” in services required by people suffering from depression.

Chairwoman Jill Scott said it was a “scandal” that sufferers were having to “sort out their situation” themselves following the shutdown of the Mulberry Unit at Stracathro Hospital.

Angus Health and Social Care Partnership hit back at the criticism and said it was “encouraging” that a local group of people had come together to support one another and address mental health stigma.

Mrs Scott said: “It is a very sad reflection on Angus Health and Social Care Partnership that at a time when the mental health of our community is a growing concern that the first rate Mulberry Unit is being hived off for alternative use.

“Members of the public, sufferers of depression and people of influence in Angus Health and Social Care Partnership all recognise the problem but it comes down to the patients themselves who are having to sort out their situation.

“I am full of admiration, as an individual, as is Brechin Community Council, for these people but I despair for the future.

Richard May (Organiser) speaks to Eryn Gaffney (22), Claire Coleman (33) and Laura Greig (29) at the drop in group

“It is a scandal that mental health is treated as a poor relation. Patients have been hung out to dry.”

The Mulberry Unit at Stracathro Hospital in Angus was finally closed earlier this year and patients were transferred to the Carseview Centre in Dundee.

Richard May, 45, who suffers from depression, set up Stop Mental Health Stigma three weeks ago and his ultimate goal is to eventually put in place a 24-hour mental health facility.

“There is just not enough being done for people struggling with mental health issues,” he said.

“Too many suffer in silence and feel alone but we are getting people out of their houses and it’s changing lives in a very positive way.”

The group meet in Montrose on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Brechin on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Mr May, who lives in Montrose, started the group after being overwhelmed by the response when he put up a Facebook post admitting he was suffering from depression.

The Mulberry Unit was based in the £20 million Susan Carnegie Centre.

Bill Troup, Head of Mental Health Services, Angus Community Health Partnership said “self-management” is an element of mental health treatment.

He added: “Other local services that are available in Angus include self help groups, listening services, health and wellbeing, befriending and community mental health.

“Multidisciplinary Community Mental Health Teams are available in every town in Angus.

“It is important to remember that only six out of every 100 people who access mental health services each year need hospital care.

“With a greater focus on recovery and improved mental wellbeing in communities most people with a mental health problem are treated at home or in the community.

 

Link to Courier article here 

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