Alastair Campbell's mental health memoir to John Murray

Alastair Campbell's mental health memoir to John Murray

Former political aide and author Alastair Campbell is publishing a "candid" and "empowering" memoir about his struggles with mental health with John Murray—Better to Live: How I Learnt to Survive Depression.

John Murray publisher Georgina Laycock acquired British and Commonwealth rights from Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown and the book will be published in May 2020.

Described as a "moving" and "life-affirming" account of his lifelong struggle with depression, the book is classed "an autobiographical, psychological and psychiatric study, which explores his own childhood, family and other relationships, and examines the impact of his professional and political life on himself and those around him".

Following his quest to better understand his depression, the book looks at how his successes have been "in part because of rather than despite his mental health problems", while his partner of 40 years, Fiona Millar, has contributed the book's afterword describing how she has learned to live with his depression.

Campbell, who is best known for his former role as Tony Blair’s chief spokesman and strategist, has previously spoken out about his depression in a series of blog posts for the mental health campaign Time to Change and is a former "Mind Champion of the Year". In November 2017 he was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in recognition of his role in breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Publication of the book coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week (18th–24th May 2020) and the book will be launched with a major campaign involving leading mental health charities and a national UK tour. Campbell will record the audiobook for a May release also.

Laycock said: "Alastair Campbell is known for being in charge, but the one thing he cannot control is his depression. His compelling memoir takes you inside his darkest moments, explaining vividly not just how it feels to hit rock bottom but what has helped and how he has learnt to survive. Both powerful and empowering, Better to Live's message of hope will help sufferers everywhere and we can’t wait to start spreading the word."

Campbell says: "We all know someone with depression. There is barely a family untouched by it. We may be talking about it more than we did, back in the era of 'boys don't cry'—they did you know—and when a brave face or a stiff upper lip or a best foot forward was seen as the only way to go. But we still don't talk about it enough. There is still stigma, and shame, and taboo. There is still the feeling that admitting to being sad or anxious makes us weak. It took me years, decades even, to get to this point, but I passionately believe that the reverse is true and that speaking honestly about our feelings and experiences (whether as a depressive or as the friend or relative of a depressive) is the first and best step on the road to recovery. So that is what I have tried to do here."

Campbell has been published in the past by Penguin, Biteback and Orion, with his other books including The Blair Years (Arrow, 2008), study The Happy Depressive (Arrow, 2012), Winners (Hutchinson, 2015), The Alastair Campbell Diaries (Biteback) and novels such as Saturday Bloody Saturday (Orion, 2018) which was co-authored with former Burnley footballer Paul Fletcher.