Alastair Campbell opened up about his struggles with depression as the special guest speaker at mental health charity’s Jami annual fundraising dinner.
More than 300 guests raised £500,000 for London-based Jami which assists the recovery of those who have suffered with a mental illness, as well as working to raise awareness in the wider population.
Mr Campbell, the former Downing Street press secretary under Tony Blair, has previously made public his battle with depression and alcoholism, and has said his brother’s struggle with schizophrenia inspired his own mental health activism.
Mr Campbell, 60, spoke of Jami’s importance in the fight for recognition of mental health issues as he addressed the crowd at the Royal Horticultural Halls in central London on Monday evening.
He said: “We need charities like Jami because the services aren’t there. The voluntary sector has always had a role, charities have always had a role and so it should be.
“But when they start to fill the gap that shouldn’t be there in the first place we have a real problem.
“Depression is the most horrible, debilitating disease. Depression is when you wake up but you don’t wake up. You can’t lift your eyelids. You can’t shave because you’ve lost all sense of purpose and meaning and energy. Schizophrenia is a horrible, horrible disease.
“In the past there was this stigma around cancer. People didn’t call it cancer — they called it ‘the big C’. The fact that that stigma has now gone has helped cancer research charities, it’s helped the people within the National Health Service to fight for funding and it’s helped to make sure cancer funding is up there.
“We have to do the same for mental health.”
Jess Harris, who is supported by Jami after suffering from panic attacks and anxiety, spoke to guests about the ways in which the charity assists her.
She said: “I don’t think I would have even been able to enter this room a few years ago, but now, not only am I in the room, I’m up here, sharing my journey with all of you and speaking in the room.
“The reason I am able to do this is because of my amazing Jami team.
“Together with Jami and my family, I have managed to change my vision, my ambition and my whole lifestyle.”
Ms Harris later told the JC that Jami support workers offer both practical career support and help in dealing with anxiety in her personal life.
Earlier, Jami chairman Doug Krikler hailed last year’s opening of the charity’s Head Room café in Golders Green, saying it had placed mental health “literally and metaphorically” at the heart of the Jewish community.
At last year’s dinner, Clark Carlisle, a former Premier League footballer, spoke of his struggles with mental illness and his attempts to take his own life.
Mr Carlisle was unable to attend this year’s event as he continues to recover after going missing in September, but has been in contact with the event’s organisers.