Dear readers of my books I'm sorry I haven't been more prolific on this site it's mostly because this site has become redundant due to starting a new site a few months ago. This site is not just about the Black Dog but more about myself, my other books and also about my talks which is how I'm spending a lot of my time theses days. Anyway please check out the new site and please keep your messages and thoughts coming I truly appreciate them. Cheers and woof. Matthew J


Hello and welcome to my website.

Like my book, I Had a Black Dog, I want to try and keep this site simple, informative and up to date.

Because of the illustrative nature of the book, words were modest, so hopefully I can elaborate a little more here than I did in the book.

It’s very important to state that I am not a psychologist or a specialist in the field, this website is dedicated to what I’ve experienced, learnt and what has worked for me in dealing with depression over the last 20 years. Although I am a million light years away from where I have been, I still have to remain vigilant about the Black Dog as he likes to pop in every once and a while.

When humans experience pain, be it emotional or physical, we tend to avoid it at all costs. We will go over it, under it, around it and away from it but rarely do we go through it. One of the simplest tools I’ve learnt is acceptance; acceptance is the one thing that deprives the Black Dog of his power.

If Black Dog chooses to make an appearance I no longer take flight or burn huge reserves of energy trying to conceal it. I accept the Black Dog is there, I batten down the hatches, I try to unload some responsibilities and live in the knowledge that it will pass because it always does.

It’s also important to be proactive in taking appropriate steps to lessen the impact like, exercise, eating correctly and getting rest.

There’s no simple answer, everyone’s path in dealing with a Black Dog is different but it is imperative to find a solid support base, from family, close friends, your doctor and even a support group. Educate yourself because knowledge is power.

Like all bad dogs a Black Dog needs discipline, patience understanding to bring him into line. Never, ever give up.

Matthew Johnstone

New Book


I'm delighted to announce a new book which comes out in shops in Australia on the 27th of October 09. This book was a joint endeavor with one of my oldest friends James Kerr who lives in London. It's basically 2 illustrated alphabets for adults joined together which meet in the middle at Z (for Zen). There is an Upside Alphabet and a Downside Alphabet, describing all aspects of this journey we call life. 
We're really excited about this book and I'm sorry to say there's not a black dog to be seen (actually it's been a pleasant change). If you're curious to find out more please go to  which by the way is still under construction but getting there. YIP YIP!!!

Last year I took up a 3 day a week position as the Creative Consultant at the Black Dog Institute ( or as some like to call me D.O.G.I (Director Of Good Ideas).After 15 years in advertising this was a big change in scenery and very much for the better.
Many people have asked did I start the Institute and the answer is definitely not, it was started by Professor Gordon Parker over 10 years ok. I didn't even know it existed when I wrote IHABD. Ever since the 1st meeting there has been an amazing synergy of ideas and collaboration. It is a surprisingly creative place to work and I'm very grateful to be there.

For those who don't know the Black Dog Institute - it is New South Wales non for for profit, research facility that specialises in mood disorders; namely bipolar and depression. Research is the cornerstone of everything the Institute does and says.

It is also has a large professional education department which trains professionals in the mental health arena.
It has a community department, whom I work very closely with, this takes programs to schools and the workplace, events and seminars to the country. It also has a volunteers program - without the volunteers we wouldn't be able to do what we do.

It also has a specialised Depression and Bipolar Clinic, with a dedicated team of psychologists and psychiatrists.
The M.A.P Centre which is the Mood Assessment Program. Which is a world first computerised diagnostic tool.
There are many other facets, too many to go into here, so please check out the website.

Primarily my job is creating illustrated programs for education purposes. I also do all the design work for events, fundraising and competitions (currently we running a photo comp - check it out on the website). I also hoot around the country delivering seminars on understanding mood disorders and resilience (what can be learnt by coming through adversity).

Even though it is a place that deals with serious issues and conditions, it is a wonderful place to work, with inspiring people who are incredibly passionate about what they do. Ironically I've never been happier in my work. I think this comes from recycling my experience into helping others because at the end of the day that act helps me in more ways that I can say.

The website gets about 180,000 hits per month, it has a dirth of information, with downloadable fact sheets that are all free.

When I'm not working at BDI, I'm working on new books.
Ruff Ruff !!
As you can see now you can order my books through this blog's only taken 5 years. 
At the moment we're not set up to send over sea's but I'm sure we can sought something out if you really want it. The best way is to contact Ainsley (my lovely wife) on and hopefully we can help you out. We're happy to sign all books too. Woof woof !!

Been too Long.

Since the last post where I announced Living With a Black Dog. Much has happened, infact too much to mention today. The biggest news is that I am finally out of advertising which is something I've been working towards for the last five years. I'm grateful for everything the industry taught me but I'm more grateful to be finally out of it.
I am now working partly as an illustrator and author (new book coming out at Xmas more on that later). I also do 3 days a week as a creative consultant at the Black Dog Institute which is NSW's initiative on tackling depression and bi-polar. It's part of the University of NSW's and part of the Prince of Wales Hospital.

Primarily I'm developing a lecture for teenagers,their parents and teachers on understanding mood disorders. It's a big project but a really important one.

The irony for me is that I'm working in a place that researches, educates and has a clinic for depression and I've never been happier. It's fantastic to have a sense of purpose in my life and to make good of a negative experience.

My mother once said 'life is like a river don't get stuck on the bank.' It is truly amazing where life takes you if you allow it. I spent so many years doing what I thought what I should be doing and not listening to what my soul really wanted.

I promise I shall try and keep this blog more regular. Thank you for all your wonderful and encouraging emails. I really appreciate them. Woof woof!!

Matthew J the slackest blogger down under

Living With a Black Dog

In 2008 my wife Ainsley and I published Living With a Black Dog: How to take care of someone living with depression while looking after yourself.
I had thought about doing a book of this nature but I didn't think I had another one in me but then Pan MacMillan approached me and suggested I co-author the book with Ainsley.
So what started out as a bunch of scribbles has become a beautifully produced book (if I do say so myself) that is twice the size of the 1st.

What really excites us about this new book is the old cliche' of there's a little bit of something in it for everyone'. Where the 1st book may have given a voice to those who couldn't articulate what's been going on for them, this one will work more as a work book for couples, siblings, friends, employers & employees etc etc.

I gave it to a friend recently to have a look at and he shared it with his wife and he said the biggest thing he got out of it was (a) communication, communication, communication & (b) the sufferer taking a bigger responsibility in getting well. Which is exactly the kind of response we were hoping for.

It's available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Greece, Japan and Taiwan.
The book was launched at the Black Dog Institute here in Sydney in April 2008.

In 2009 the book launched in the UK and it made the top 10 selling books in the London Times which made us a little proud.

I just wanted to thank everyone who has written to me in support of my little book(s). I really fought with doing the 1st book back in 2005 and your emails and letters have made me realise that what my ego thinks is absolutely irrelevant to what's truly important. So thanks again for the encouragement, it means a lot.

Woof woof !

Matthew J

From the Australian launch press release

Since Winston Churchill popularised the term Black Dog to describe the hellish bouts of depression he experienced, it’s become shorthand for the disease suffered by one in five people, often in shame & silence.

By Matthew Johnstone
Published 1 August 2005 RRP AUD $16.95 ISBN 0330421832

An illuminating, moving and uplifting illustrated book about depression created by Matthew Johnstone.

This is one of the most empathic and informative approaches to understanding clinical depression yet developed. Go fetch!”
Gordon Parker, Professor of Psychiatry UNSW
Executive Director Black Dog Institute

“The number one disabling illness in Australia today is neither cancer nor heart disease. It’s depression.”
Beyond Blue: National Depression Initiative