'The last big taboo’

Alastair Campbell issued a rallying cry to Channel Islands business leaders to better support people with mental health problems during a recent visit to Guernsey. William Green reports

‘I had a very, very bad breakdown in the 80s. I was psychotic,’ said Alastair Campbell, the journalist and former aide to Tony Blair. ‘I was arrested. I was behaving very, very strangely. I got locked up. I was told I could only leave if I agreed to go to hospital. I went to hospital. I was there for a while. I thought my life was over.’

It’s the type of story that might once have been told behind closed doors and in hushed tones. It might not have been considered material for an after-dinner address to hundreds of people, including some of the Channel Islands most senior business leaders.

However, that’s what Mr Campbell did during his address at the Guernsey chamber of commerce annual dinner. For him, that was the whole point – challenging what he called the ‘last big taboo’. The black tie event at Beau Sejour was also raising money for mental health charity, Guernsey Mind. Mr Campbell also helped raise vital funds by hosting a prize auction. 

Continuing his own story, the former spin doctor said that his partner, Fiona, had stood by him during his breakdown. His former editor at the Daily Mirror newspaper, Richard Stott, also offered him his old job back. That was despite him moving to a new job in the run-up to his breakdown. Mr Stott told him to stay in hospital until he was better, and then start again at the Mirror once he was 100% fit. 

‘That was the most amazing moment for me because I honestly thought my life was over. I thought my career was finished.’

Mr Campbell also urged his audience of employers to be compassionate and not reject people living with mental health conditions for jobs out-of-hand. ‘What I say to employers is just never ever, ever, ever judge people on what might be an episode of mental illness.’

To access the July edition and the full interview, click here.