Living with a Black Dog: His Name Is Depression by Matthew Johnstone

What was that about April being the cruelest month? Certainly furthest from the truth for this girl. April has been a lovely month of abundant gifts so far. This slim picture is another unsolicited present.

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I was slightly skeptical, at first. A picture book (of such short length too!) on the complex subject of depression can’t help but be simplistic. But I adored the cover illustration. Its clear lines couldn’t help but remind me of my beloved Tintin series’ signature ligne claire style. And there’s nothing wrong with refreshing the basics for yourself.

As suspected, Living with a Black Dog is incredibly quick to digest; I think I finished it in less than fifteen minutes and I’m a slow reader. But it was much better than I expected. I was right, it is indeed simple. Yet its brevity makes depression ring no less true to this sufferer and is a helpful tool as “a visual articulation” of the condition is like.

Some of my favorite images:

I’m happy to report that the self-care thoughts I’ve had lately are in line with Johnstone’s suggestions: controlling stress, simplifying life, writing. I just have to be more consistent in implementing these steps.

When reading, I thought Living with a Black Dog’s clarity would help those living with someone depressed understand what their loved one is going through. Living with a Black Dog is an easy, digestible compendium on what it is like inside someone with depression.

Lo and behold! Johnstone has indeed written and illustrated another picture book tailor-made for those caring for someone with depression: what to say, what not to say, what to do, and concrete steps that can help.

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Happily you can experience both picture books for free on youtube, courtesy of Matthew Johnstone’s collaboration with the World Health Organization to promote mental health. Here is the link for Living with a Black Dog: His Name Is Depression and here is the link for Living with a Black Dog: How to Take Care of Someone with Depression While Looking after Yourself.

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