Depression - Walking with the Black Dog
Walking with the black dog
Sir Winston Churchill was prime Minister of Britain from 1940 – 45 and 1951 – 55.
Depression was a major part of his life and he used the phrase ‘Black Dog’ as a euphemism when talking to family and friends.
It is an apt description for a condition which affects so many across the world.
The phrase has been used since Celtic times to describe something dark, threatening, sinister, overwhelming. In medieval period it was linked to the word melancholy. Foley (2005) suggests that Churchill’s nanny may well have passed on the phrase when speaking of him to others.
Foley (2005) also relates that on a day when he was not particularly pleased to see visitors Churchill would say “I have got a black dog on my back today” to give reason for his low grumpy demeanour.
How many find this Black Dog on their back, or walking behind or beside them in day to day life? To use a phrase from Foley's (2005) paper on the history of the phrase – how many find it ‘emblematic for disquiet of one’s own soul’?
Partners, children and families often don't know how to cope with their loved ones in this dark time.
Authors have used this metaphor in many self help books. One author in particular – Matthew Johnstone – has a series of well written and thoughtful books on the subject of the Black Dog; both from an individual’s perspective and also for those living with a loved one that is suffering from depression.
These two books – ‘I had a black dog’ and ‘Living with a black dog’ are published by Robinson and as a simple, easy to understand guide to depression and how to deal with it, for sufferers and their families; I've found them useful to recommend to those I see with depression in the course of my work.
There are other titles which use the theme of the Black Dog in advising how to help with depression.
I hope that you may find them as helpful as I have.
Foley, Paul; ‘Black dog’ as a metaphor for depression: a brief history; Jan 2005
See hyperlink below
- Celebrities back 'black dog' campaign to defeat depression | Society | The Guardian
Stars back UK charity's 'black dog' sculptures campaign to raise awareness of depression
- Black dog as a metaphor for depression: a brief history Paul Foley
This is an interesting background to the use of the phrase Black Dog from early times to modern day.
- Black Dog Institute - Home - Black Dog Institute
Black Dog Institute is an educational, research and clinical facility offering specialist expertise in mood disorders.
- 'Clinical depression' What does that mean? - MayoClinic.com
Explaining depression and terms used relating to it