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Alastair Campbell explores hope of ‘happier life’ in BBC mental health film

Alastair Campbell discusses his mental health in Depression and Me (David Mirzoeff/PA)
Alastair Campbell discusses his mental health in Depression and Me (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Alastair Campbell will speak about his lifelong battle with debilitating depression and his hope for a “happier life” in a new BBC documentary.

The former spin doctor for Tony Blair has appeared combative in the public eye, but suffered behind the scenes from acute depression which required therapy and medication.

The journalist is hopeful of a treatment beyond the pills that might put a stop to the depression which has dogged him.

Campbell is also concerned that while society may have reached a point where people can talk openly about mental illness, health services lag far behind the level of conversation.

He shares his story in Depression And Me for BBC Two, exploring his issues and how medical science is seeking new treatments.

It is part of a series featuring famed baker Nadiya Hussain and actor David Harewood, which covers anxiety and psychosis, as well as suicide among veterans.

Campbell, 61, said: “I’ve been on antidepressants for years and years and none of them can stop it. I want to understand my depression and find out if modern science has any better ways of treating it. I’m hoping there’s something out there that can help me lead a happier life.

Depression and Me
Ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who will look at whether ‘radical new treatments’ can stop his depression in new BBC Two film Depression and Me (BBC2)

“I feel we are nearing a tipping point in the battle to demolish the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness and TV is a very good medium for bringing these issues right out into the open.

“I have never regretted being open about my own issues, but an important part of this film is also seeing my depression through the eyes of members of my family, especially my partner Fiona.

“I was also keen to get out there and find out what kind of progress was being made on the scientific and research front. There is a lot going on.”

Women of the Year Awards 2015 – London
Nadiya Hussain will speak about her struggles with anxiety (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Campbell has been open about his struggles with depression and alcohol, but believes that while such conversations about such problems are becoming more common, tangible support and solutions are not.

He said: “My worry is that we are winning the battle for better awareness but losing the battle for the services we need.

“One film alone cannot change the world but there is finally the focus on these issues that we need and hopefully one day we will have services to match.”

Homeland actor Harewood will also explore his being sectioned in Psychosis And Me, delving into his breakdown at 23.

The Great British Bake Off star Hussain will also open up about anxiety and panic attacks, as the BBC announces a series of mental health programmes.

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The BBC will also run a special programme, The War In My Head, discussing the rate of suicide among armed forces veterans.

Alison Kirkham, BBC Controller of  Factual Commissioning, said:  “Over the last few years we’ve made a real commitment to shining a light on mental health.

“With the powerful and deeply personal films in this season we will maintain that momentum, continuing to take on taboos, challenge stigma and bring conversations out of the shadows. ”

The films will air in May, to mark Mental Health Awareness week.

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