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Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Friday, 29 October 2010 17:31 UK
Mental health course launched by Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell took part in a workshop with local young people

Tony Blair's former press secretary Alastair Campbell has helped launch a new mental health scheme for young people in north Wales.

He visited St David's School in Saltney, Flintshire, for the launch of the course, co-ordinated by Flintshire Mind, which is designed to train people to recognise early signs and symptoms of mental distress in young people.

During the launch, Mr Campbell took part in a workshop with young people from the area.

The journalist and author also spoke about his own experiences of mental illness.

He said: "It was a long time ago, but I had a very bad breakdown and when you're going through a bad period you start to say to yourself that it's the others who have the problem not me and that's a very common and human thing to do.

"I think what this is about is trying to break down the stigma, break down the taboo, stop the discrimination against mentally ill people so that they feel they can be more open about their problems."

Mr Campbell emphasised how mental health problems should be treated in the same way as physical problems.

He said: "We all have physical health and we all have mental health and sometimes we have good days and sometimes bad and I think for young people in particular it's sometimes very difficult to admit you have a problem.

Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell signed copies of his book after the session

"I think this initiative is about advising other people - employers, family and friends - to spot the signs in those that they're close to and try to help them at the very early stages."

Carol Evans, a national trainer for Youth Mental Health First Aid who led the day's workshop, was pleased with the way the event had gone: "Fantastic. I think the young people worked very hard in the workshop and contributed very openly.

"I thought Alastair Campbell was excellent. He participated on an equal footing with the young people.

"He feels talking openly helps him cope and I feel that's a very positive message."

Originally developed in Australia, the Youth Mental Health First Aid course has been adapted to suit the needs of young people in Wales.

The first Flintshire course, funded by the assembly government, will be held on 15 and 16 November in Connah's Quay.

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