The Black Dog



Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) seated at his desk at Chartwell. Churchill used to write to help ward of the ‘black dog’ of his depression.

Or at least that’s what Churchill called it. Depression is an in incredibly common illness and affects between 4-10% of people in England each year. Metal health problems are a growing area of public health concern and are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide. This means that they have a significant economic cost and are a key contributor to global mortality rates. About 1 in 4 people in England will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Depression and other mental health problems affect all kinds of people, but disproportionately affect people from lower socioeconomic groups.

Also, depression isn’t a new thing. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC) was writing about ‘melancholia’ over two thousand years ago. It’s fairly safe to assume that mental health problems have been with us, and will continue to be with us, for a long time. Given that they’ve been around since (well before) Ancient Greece, and continue to affect people of all backgrounds, it’s important that you understand that you are suffering something entirely common and treatable. It can be hard to appreciate this, especially in the often foggy midst of a depression, but you should take heart from the fact that two millennia of people before you have suffered and recovered from the same, sometimes seemingly inescapable, feelings. Medical Science continues to make progressive improvements in the way it understands mental health problems, and today treatment options are effective and varied.

If you are suffering from depression there is a good chance that a family member, friend, or colleague is too. If you don’t find the notion of the unhappy ancients a reassurance, (and that would be entirely reasonable), then the knowledge that the person sat opposite you on the tube, or next to you at work, could be experiencing similar feelings might offer you a little comfort. Depression doesn’t feel like something ‘we’re all in together’, but this is actually something of a statistical reality. Remember: the feelings you are experiencing are probably painful, and undoubtedly difficult, but they are not unusual, selfish, or shameful. Don’t forget to tell yourself that the next time you’re struggling to get out of bed. When depressed the smallest thing can be a Churchillian effort. It’s okay to feel that putting on your socks is as difficult as planning D-Day (after all, he probably did too).

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