The documentary ‘Alastair Campbell: Depression And Me’, is an intensely personal film about the condition that has shaped Tony Blair’s former spin-doctor’s life.
Shot over two years, it follows his personal experiences of depression as he talks to doctors, scientists and therapists about his condition and how it is treated. He is candid about the trauma caused by the illness and death of his brother Donald. He’s brutally honest about his own psychotic breakdown on Hampstead Heath after he left frontline politics – and he and his family explore how they have been affected by what he endures.
He explains why he remains sceptical after looking into a range of cutting edge mental health treatments – from magnets and mushrooms to dramatic lifestyle choices – and what he would do to turn around the debilitated state of mental healthcare in this country.
If you had unlimited funds to put into mental healthcare what’s the first thing you would do?
Invest in child and adolescent mental health services. It’s falling apart in some parts of the country. I also think I’d encourage companies, businesses, to be much more proactive taking seriously the mental health of their staff. There are long-term benefits to the NHS for doing this. I’d invest in getting more psychiatrists – persuading more medical students to go into psychiatry. All of this has to be focused on the idea that long-term we can save money. We all know we need to think long-term but we don’t do it.
In the documentary you seem unconvinced by some of the new treatments being proposed. Do you think your fear of coming off medication means you are less likely to engage with them?
Yes, I do. I don’t know whether having a better lifestyle has made things better or how bad it would have been anyway. Whenever I’ve been on antidepressants for a long time and then come off, I have had serious relapses. My daughter, Grace, doesn’t like medication. Fiona has grown to accept it. All of us wish I wasn’t on it. But then I’m going to be 62 and most 62-year-olds take a lot more medication than me. I only take one pill.
Article adapted from GQ magazine.
The documentary can be watched on BBC iplayer here.