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Alastair Campbell: The Politics of Mental Health

Why isn’t providing adequate mental health services a no brainer?

Half of all Australians will experience mental ill-health in their lifetime. The prevalence of mental illness in young people is on the rise. The World Health Organization confirms that depression will overtake heart disease as the number one cause of disease burden worldwide by 2030. Yet mental health receives only 2% of the global health care budget, and even in countries like Australia, awareness and rhetoric outstrip funding by miles.

Providing appropriate mental health services for people who need them should be the number one priority in health care, so why is it so hard for people with mental illness to get a fair deal?

With unique insight into the workings of government, and lived experience of mental illness, British journalist and political aide Alastair Campbell has become a leading advocate for action on mental health in the UK.

Until we can be as open about mental illness as we are about physical illness we can’t call ourselves advanced, civilised countries.

Alastair Campbell


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Photo credit: Prudence Upton

This talk was presented in partnership with Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.

Alastair Campbell portrait

Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell is a writer, communicator and strategist best known for his role as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy. Still active in politics and campaigns in Britain and overseas, he now splits his time between writing, speaking, charities and consultancy. He has written 14 books in the past ten years including a personal memoir on depression and the pursuit of happiness. Campbell is an ambassador for the Time to Change campaign to raise awareness about mental illness, ambassador for Alcohol Concern, patron of Maytree, the country’s only charity for the suicidal, and of Kidstime, which supports the children of mentally ill parents. He co-founded the all-party campaign, Equality4MentalHealth which secured an extra £600 million for mental health services. In 2008, Alastair featured in an award-winning one-hour documentary, Cracking Up on BBC2 about his own breakdown in 1986. Both the film and his first novel, All In The Mind, won considerable praise from mental health charities and campaign groups, which lead to his appointment as Mind Champion of the Year in 2009.

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