Alastair Campbell on mental health and the 'godsend' of Hampstead Heath

Alastair Campbell and Fiona Millar on Hampstead Heath with their dog Skye

Alastair Campbell and Fiona Millar on Hampstead Heath with their dog Skye - Credit: Polly Hancock

Alastair Campbell has called for strengthened support from the government and employers to enable people to be as open about their mental health as their physical health.

The former government communications director hailed Hampstead Heath as a “godsend” during the pandemic, but warned of people’s bruised mental health coming out of lockdown.

The Gospel Oak journalist has spoken openly about his personal battles with depression in his book Living Better: How I Learned to Survive Depression.

On May 21 the 63-year-old will feature alongside his partner Fiona Millar, a journalist and education campaigner, in Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health – a day of online events involving discussions, support and guidance. 

Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health

Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health - Credit: Archant

 Alastair told the Ham&High: “I’m trying to encourage people to be open.  

“I’ve always felt that it's been better for me to be much more open than I used to.  

“I think it’s also been better for the people around me that it means we can talk through it better than perhaps we did when I was in denial of it all.

“In the workplace I also think it's incredibly important that people don't feel that there's something taboo about raising how they feel when they're really struggling.

“During the pandemic in particular I think a lot of people maybe who didn't have mental health challenges before have realised that a change of mood, feeling very low or anxious can affect everybody.  

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“I think that, like any problem in life, talking about it, being open about it, admitting it to somebody, is often the most important first step.” 

Alastair highlighted relationships and the “fundamentals” of sleep, diet and exercise as important practical steps towards boosting people's mental health.  

Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell - Credit: Polly Hancock

In addition to greater support from Whitehall and employers, Tony Blair’s former communications chief said individuals can help themselves through personal activities.

For the Gospel Oak resident, that means the lido, football, music, his bike and his dog Skye.  

And looking ahead to the Ham&High’s mental health event, he said one of the most important changes has been the media taking the topic more seriously.  

“I think it's great that the Ham&High is doing something very proactive, very active and being part of this desire to get change in attitudes, which hopefully will lead to change in awareness and ultimately to change in services as well.   

“I really hope it's a big success and I'm sure it will be.” 

To register for the event, click here.

Alastair Campbell and Fiona Millar

Alastair Campbell and Fiona Millar - Credit: Polly Hancock