Matthew Johnstone takes an unlikely format and shows how it can shine in the right hands. In the book, Johnstone aims to set out simply how depression feels and what the symptoms are through pictures and a minimal amount of words.
If you’d asked me before I read the book whether I thought this book would be nothing short of a triumph, I probably would have said no. I’m glad to be proven wrong.
When I was in hospital, Johnstone’s book and its companion volume aimed at carers/family/lovers of those that suffer from depression, became my anchors to the world. Johnstone put eloquently into pictures what I could not express in words. For that I can’t thank him enough.
Johnstone’s book became one of the books I endlessly praised and recommended to anyone that had ears. At the hospital the book was handed around in hushed tones, like a holy grail. It was something that could endlessly give and demanded next to nothing in return.
The books power etched itself into everyone that saw it. In conveying what many people, including myself, felt like they could not express Johnstone has helped a great many people through simple illustration. This isn’t to say, however, that his drawing is without intellectual dimensions. His illustrations often work on many levels, and reward repeat viewings.
After the first book’s success he later wrote and drew another volume with his wife, Ainsley Johnstone, aimed at the caregiver and family members of those that suffer with depression. Much like the first book this companion volume is a triumph. This book is longer than the first and is divided into two sections: things you may have noticed, where the symptoms of depression are broken down, and tips for the caregiver, where the authorial duo set out ways to help a loved one who suffers from depression while also looking after yourself.
Johnstone puts succinctly into a few pages what other books take hundreds of pages to say. The book is eloquent and without equal in the genre due to the sheer simplicity and accessibility of the book. It’s without equal and it essential reading for this mental health week.