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Book review
Depresso or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Being Bonkers!
  1. Ian Williams
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ian Williams, Graphicmedicine.org, Hafoty Lwyd, Llanrhaeadr, Denbigh LL16 4PH, UK; ian{at}ian-williams.co.uk

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Written by Brick. Published by Knockabout Comics, London, UK, 2010, pp 256, £12.99, paperback (240 mm×170 mm), ISBN 978-0-86166-170-1 2010
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‘Brick’ is the nom de plume of John Stuart Clark, who has been producing scathing political cartoons for pressure groups, trade unions and NGOs for the last 20 years. Or rather was, until a 4-year bout of depression brought a sudden halt to his output.

The creation of this substantial graphic novel, it seems, partly facilitated his recovery, his coming to terms with his inner ‘Depresso’. This semi-fictional story follows Brick's graphic avatar–wry political cartoonist Tom Freeman–from the initial somatic symptoms of his depression, through suffering, failed treatment–both orthodox and alternative–to recovery, via myriad diversions, side stories and tales of travel.

This is a rather angry book. Freeman is, by his own admission, a “mard arse” (http://www.urbandictionary.com defines this as “A person that relishes in expressing his/her discomfort vocally at all times”) steeped, it seems, in anti-establishment vitriol, firing invective at most of the people who cross his path. The cover blurb screams radical hyperbole: “Our world is plagued by madness” it proclaims, the author was “educated in the gulag of an English public school”, reduced to a “zombie” by antidepressants; and so sets the tone of the work. Nevertheless, things start gently enough, with an interesting portrayal of the way that depression creeps up on our unsuspecting hero. Tom's symptoms are, at first, purely physical: he has a terrible pain in his testis and convinces himself he is dying of testicular cancer. He retreats to the spare bedroom to spend his nights alone with his agony but, being an independent minded sceptic, he eschews medical help for some considerable time. When he does eventually seek an opinion, he is completely thrown by coming face to face with a female general practitioner (GP) and refuses to reveal his problem. His second consultation, with …

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