Tuesday 9pm – 10pm, BBC2
Coinciding with the UK’s Mental Health Awareness week, the BBC has commissioned a trio of documentaries to demonstrate its commitment to supporting the issue. The shows are dedicated to addressing the struggles individuals and society face. Millions across the country battle their own demons as well as some horrible stereotyping brought about by a misunderstanding or perceived shame. It is believed 1 in 6 people have experienced a mental health illness in the past week alone and the BBC is working with leading charities such as the Reading Agency and Mental Health Awareness, as well as Public Health England. It is not just these documentaries tackling the issue, the network has introduced the subject across radio, tv and online content, including storylines in Holby City and Casualty and dedicated Newsbeat podcasts on various related subjects.
This documentary follows journalist and former Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell, many viewers will remember him as Tony Blair’s spin doctor. This moving film about his own mental health reveals a very different side to the man who spent his Cambridge University years drinking heavily and headbutting doors open. Many will also recall him utilising a very bullish and commanding style in politics, this is thrown by the wayside as he opens up and reveals the personal struggle within – his partner revealing to the Radio Times he could become aggressive and cruel and at times his drinking was “epidemic”. Yet, as we go through the documentary we are presented with a man who is far subtler and far more vulnerable than appears on the surface.
Campbell produces a series of video diaries which shows both his ‘good’ and ‘bad’ side of his mental health, it is clearly evident when he is in a spell where “the blackness pulls my strings” as he puts it. Many will be surprised he has been taking antidepressant drugs on and off for 30 years. This experience offers him the chance to explore alternative therapies and he researches treatments such as hallucinogenic drugs and magnetic brain stimulation. His sceptical and intelligent mind make him wary of these new approaches but he explains them brilliantly.
Exploring his life experiences he queries whether or not they have contributed to his condition, he seeks answers as to why some days he just can’t get out of bed with his crippling depression.
An incredibly personal and open explanation of one of the most common mental health issues in society.
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