Highly regarded artist, writer and photographer, Matthew Johnstone, provides a visual account of what it is like to live with depression.
As part of the November 17th International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, I urge everyone to take a couple of minutes out of their day to look at Johnstone’s I Had a Black Dog (2007).
In his uplifting 48-page book, Johnstone recreates the symptoms associated with the Churchillian ‘Black Dog’ of depression. Stunningly illustrated, this 2007 book remains a must-have for anyone who has ever had a Black Dog, or knows someone who has. Though over 10 years old, the content remains as relevant and influential as ever.
I Had a Black Dog tells the tale of one man and his ‘dog’. The Black Dog isn’t instantly recognisable in every illustration, but without a doubt he is always there. On the one occasion where his ‘dog’ does not appear, it is a good day. Johnston varies the size of the dog in conveying the weight that the depression has on people. Whether big or small, it seems the dog will always be there tomorrow.
Johnstone is a passionate mental health advocate. Having suffered from depression himself, he hopes to teach the reader ‘how to tame the dog and bring it to heel’.
‘SUICIDE IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF YOUNG DEATHS IN THE UK. WE BELIEVE THAT MANY YOUNG SUICIDES CAN BE PREVENTED’ PAPYRUS.
Ever since Winston Churchill first popularised the term ‘Black Dog’ to describe his bouts of depression, many others have come forward to tell their own tales of suffering. To name but a few, Owen Wilson, Princess Diana and Gwyneth Paltrow have all battled depression at different stages during their lives.
Indeed, well before Churchill’s time, well-known figures such as Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka and Sylvia Path narrated their anguish through various literary means. A prime example: The Metamorphis (1915), in which Kafka parallels Gregor’s transformation with the paralysing realities of a mental illness.
In a world where suicide remains the largest cause of death amongst young people, Johnstone’s book is an unprecedented success. Indeed, so well-received that a video version of I Had a Black Dog was made for the World Health Organisation to mark World Mental Health Day 2012.
‘FINALLY, A BOOK ABOUT DEPRESSION THAT ISN’T A PRESCRIPTIVE SELF-HELP MANUAL. JOHNSTON’S DEFTLY EXPRESSES HOW LONELY, AND ISOLATING DEPRESSION CAN BE FOR SUFFERERS. POIGNANT AND HUMOROUS IN EQUAL MEASURE’ SUNDAY TIMES.
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is intended to bring a day of healing and mental health awareness throughout the world.
If you or someone you know are not coping with life then call HOPELINE UK at 0800 068 41 41 for confidential suicide prevention advice.