Jack Straw reveals battle with depression and tinnitus

Autobiography describes how former home secretary suffered from condition as result of political tensions and illness

The former home secretary Jack Straw has revealed how he suffered from depression as a result of political tension and illness.

In his autobiography, summarised in the Daily Mail, Straw describes how the Labour party was divided by infighting while he developed tinnitus after his election to parliament in 1979.

He wrote: “The deafness seemed a metaphor for what was happening around me. As my hearing fell apart, so did my party, and all the aspirations and dreams I’d had about the future.

“In my own constituency I came under pressure from Trotskyists and other assorted nasties, trying to de-select me. I was in a terrible state, worried about my health and my future.”

Straw felt that a series of emotional problems that he had collected since his childhood came to a head, propelling him into clinical depression. He was advised to seek help which he did.

“Alice’s mother (his mother-in-law) provided me with a route out of this darkness. She suggested it might help if I saw a psychoanalyst and a man in Islington was recommended. Although at first I was highly resistant to the idea of anyone prying into my mind, I began going twice a week. It took me a while to recognise the value of what he was trying to do.

Whether professional psychoanalysis is for everyone, I have no idea, but it worked for me. “

Straw also writes about seeing his father being beaten up by his maternal uncles and his father’s subsequent suicide attempt.

He also describes the loss of a daughter and the breakup of his first marriage. “We had wanted to start a family, but this proved difficult. Anthea had a course of fertility treatment and, to our great joy, became pregnant. The baby was born fit and well in February 1976. We named her Rachel.

“Three days later, she was not feeding properly. She was rushed from the ward to a specialist neonatal unit and given the best treatment available, but she became more and more distressed and died. She was six days old.”

Their daughter’s death hastened the couple’s separation and Straw married Alice Perkins who worked for the Labour minister Barbara Castle.

Straw writes that his hearing improved although he still suffers from tinnitus in his left ear. He also occasionally sees a psychotherapist.


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