I have felt hopeless, Archbishop Welby admits

12 October 2017

LAMBETH PALACE

Black dog: the Archbishop of Canterbury has told GQ that he has suffered depression

Black dog: the Archbishop of Canterbury has told GQ that he has suffered depression

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted to struggling with depression in recent years, in a wide-ranging interview with the former New Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell.

When asked by Mr Campbell, who has often spoke of his own mental-health problems and alcoholism, if he got depressed, Archbishop Welby said: “I think if you had asked me a year ago I’d have said no.

“But what was that phrase Churchill used? ‘Black dog’. There is an element of that. I think, as I am getting older, I am realising it does come from time to time.

“I have those moments — you would know this — when objectively everything is fine, but you think you are, beyond description, hopeless.”

Archbishop Welby’s daughter Katharine has also experienced bouts of depression, and has recently written about her own journey through mental-health problems (Books, 15 September).

During the interview, conducted for the November edition of GQ, and published in the week of World Mental Health Day, Archbishop Welby also reflected on his own turbulent childhood, growing up with two alcoholic parents, one of whom later turned out not to be his biological father (News, 15 April 2016), as well as the trauma of losing his young daughter in a car crash in the 1980s.

When Mr Campbell remarked that his sister had told him that, were he a believer, he would not feel hopeless, Archbishop Welby recommended he read Psalm 88.

“I bet you will find someone in there going through genuine chronic depression. When I get like that, I may feel without hope, I may feel all kinds of things, but I also talk to God.”

Unlike Katharine, he had never taken any medication or undergone therapy for mental-health issues, Archbishop Welby said.

When pressed on the connections between the Trump presidency and Evangelicals in the United States, Archbishop Welby declined to comment, but did hold up Angela Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis as one Britain should emulate.

“Clearly her approach is far more generous. I think much more based on a fundamental principle of hospitality and generosity to the poorest.”

The UK Government’s efforts were not enough, he said. “Twenty-thousand people over five years? This is the biggest refugee crisis in human history. There are 64 million people around the world on the move.

“I do not think we are living up to our heritage, no. I do not think we are responding in a way that seems humanly decent. I think out of fear, not out of anything grander than that.”

Despite voting Remain in the referendum, Archbishop Welby told Mr Campbell — a prominent opponent of Brexit — that he did not think Britain’s departure from the EU should be stopped.

Forthcoming Events

16-18 February 2018
Church Times Festival of Faith & Literature

Our literary festival with a theological slant in Bloxham, Oxfordshire. Speakers include Francis Spufford, Ruth Valerio, Eve Poole, Mark Oakley, James Runcie and many others. Find out more

5-6 May 2018
Church Times Festival of Poetry
With Sarum College, Salisbury. More details coming soon - register your interest here

The Church Times Podcast

The Church Times Podcast, hosted by Tim Wyatt and Ed Thornton, features a mixture of interviews and news analysis. Listen online

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read seven articles each month for free.