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Digital Subscriptions > The Oban Times & Lochaber Times > 18th August 2016 > A lament for my lost piper

A lament for my lost piper

Alastair Campbell was at his brother’s side as he wrestled for years with schizophrenia. Donald died last week. Speaking for the first time about that battle, the former spin doctor tells of a mind and body ravaged but a loving, musical soul undimmed


MY BIG brother died last Tuesday. It was a massive, horrible shock, even though we have always known that people with his condition live on average 20 years less long than the rest of us. My dad lived to 82, my mum to 88. Donald was 62. His condition was schizophrenia.

His illness, not mine, is the real reason I campaign for better understanding and treatment of mental illness, not least because people who have schizophrenia do have such shortened life expectancy.

I talk about my own problems of depression and addiction partly because I am asked to and because I think openness is better all round if we are going to break down the taboo and so win the fight for the services and treatments we need. I never talked about Donald’s illness in public, mainly because our mum didn’t want me to.

That was not out of the shame and stigma that many people sadly still feel attaches to mental illness. She was hugely proud of him for what he managed to achieve despite what he called “this shitty illness”. It was more that, with one son in the media spotlight, she worried that if Donald’s head were in any way above the parapet, it could have made him even more vulnerable.

Donald, on the other hand, was totally up for it. Like a lot of mentally ill people, when he was well he thought he ought to be famous. And when he was ill he thought he already was. In his prime he saw Sean Connery as a suitable actor to play him in the movie of his life. More recently he wondered if George Clooney could do a Scottish accent.

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