“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.”
~ Stephen Fry
People outside the mental health community give themselves permission to pass judgment on mentally-ill people, labeling and stereotyping them as crazy, stupid or even lazy. So naturally, people are led to these stereotypes due to misperception and lack of education and awareness.
Stigmatizing mentally-ill folks is an unnecessary burden—mental illness is already draining and exhausting, and they don’t need the extra baggage.
The purpose of this article and video (which I personally find incredibly accurate and illustrative of depression) is to shed some light on what it’s like to be depressed (with more articles on other mental illnesses to come), both for the people who have no idea what depression is, as well as for our depressed friends.
Depression is one of the biggest medical problems facing the world today, and it’s one that’s taking a staggering toll. The World Health Organization estimated that 10 percent of the population can be expected to get “clinically depressed.” In fact, it’s estimated that depression will impose the second-biggest health burden by 2020, and that it will overtake the cost of treating all cardiovascular diseases combined.
When The Black Dog Growls
Winston Churchill famously suffered from serious bouts of clinical depression, and it’s alleged that he described it as the Black Dog.
It’s unlikely that the Black Dog was a specific term for depression before Churchill. But despite its ill-humor, the metaphor does give a strong and powerful expression, perhaps even some wisdom. The dog indeed is a great example for describing depression.
In The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton says that:
“Of all other [animals], dogs are most subject to this malady, insomuch some hold they dream as men do, and through violence of melancholy run mad. I could relate many stories of dogs that have died for grief, and pined away for loss of their masters.”
People who suffer from depression will resonate with the term. They live with it day-to-day. The Black Dog is a powerfully expressive and descriptive metaphor—an unwelcome dark companion that lurks in the shadows, only seen by the sufferer and yet invisible to others.
Taming the Canine
“There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.”
Fortunately, there is subtle hope behind the metaphor. Like most canines, the Black Dog can be collared, trained and put under control.
Artist and writer Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, has written and illustrated this moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion. This amazing video shows that strength and support that can be found within and around us to tame it. The Black Dog may be a terrible beast, but with the right steps, it can be brought to heel.
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Editor: Travis May
Photo: YouTube video still