Alastair Campbell, the former Director of Communications for Prime Minister Tony Blair, was one of the most feared operators in British politics. Known for his short fuse, he was the basis for the obscenity-spewing character Malcolm Tucker in Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It.
But there was always another Alastair Campbell – the vulnerable man behind the tough-guy persona, the one who struggled with alcoholism and depression. At the age of 29 he experienced a major stress-related breakdown after long periods of heavy drinking and intense overwork. He was arrested and hospitalised. Since then, he has intermittently struggled with bouts of depression and has become one of the nation’s best known campaigners for mental health awareness. According to Campbell, our society still isn’t taking mental health seriously enough. Recent research by Mind found that half of people in the UK who requested therapy had to wait more than three months. While waiting for therapy, 67% became more mentally unwell, 40% harmed themselves, and one in six attempted suicide.
In his new book Living Better: How I Learnt to Survive Depression, Campbell explores the impact of his depression on his professional and political life, as well as on those closest to him. While Campbell speaks about the stigma, shame and taboo still associated with depression, he also examines how his successes may have been partly because of, rather than despite, his mental health problems.
In September 2020, Campbell came to Intelligence Squared, where he was be joined in conversation by television and radio presenter Adrian Chiles, who has been equally candid about his own struggles with alcohol as well as anxiety and depression.
Living Better: How I Learnt to Survive Depression by Alastair Campbell is available to pre-order now from Waterstones.
Speakers are subject to change.