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Winston Churchill called it “the Black Dog”, a phrase he coined to explain that feeling of sadness, dread and despair that comes from the most common of mental illnesses — depression.

Depression is a serious malady that manifests with darkness: sufferers feel heavy and lethargic; they lose interest in everything around them; there is a generalised feeling that life is pointless. The depressed person feels worthless.

Suicide moves into the frame as a way to escape this world of pain, where the depressed person feels useless, and that life is meaninglessness. I know the symptoms: I’ve had bouts of depression and anxiety throughout my life. When you’re in it, you can’t see a way out of it. And when it’s over and there’s a return to normalcy, you can’t imagine ever having been depressed.

I’ve taken antidepressants and mood stabilisers since I was in my early 20s, and they’ve staved off the Black Dog enough for me to have lead a reasonably normal life. Of course I’ve had bouts of “the downs” and acute anxiety, even though I am being chemically treated for both. However, I know the feeling will pass, mainly because my meds ensure that I never sink into a deep despair that spirals into a dark place where there is no purpose or joy. The downside is that I feel less intensely, but it’s worth it so as not to get into the gloomy place. Bearing my own history in mind, I was utterly speechless when a young, black friend told me her brother was out of sorts and she was worried about him. She described all the symptoms of depression: he couldn’t get out of bed, sleeping 14-15 hours at a stretch; he couldn’t make decisions; he isolated himself and wouldn’t do anything or go anywhere. He refused to see anyone and was irritable with irrational outbursts of anger that were not com...

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