Goya  had a first-hand experience of mental ill health in the form of panic, terror, fear and hysteria. He survived two near-fatal illnesses, and grew increasingly anxious in fear of relapse. The combination of these factors is thought to have led to him to create these pictures which he painted directly on the walls of his dining and sitting rooms. He never intended the paintings to be exhibited or seen and so did not himself give them titles. There are 14 paintings in total which are collectively known as the ‘Black Paintings’.

La romería de San Isidro, A Pilgrimage to San Isidro, 1819–1823 Goya Image in Public Domain

Depression is often depicted in art by a person holding their head in their hands. It’s not an image that is popular with people who suffer from depression. Maybe there is a disconnect between the artist who wants to portray how depression feels and the patient who wants an image to help them live well with depression. What do you think?

Edvard Munch - Melancholy (1894) Image in Public Domain


The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath Although a work of fiction, Plath wrote this book shortly before she committed suicide. There are some very interesting insights into the stigma and trauma associated with being a psychiatric patient. (chapter 11 and chapter 12)

Cold Fish Soup Adam Farrer Farrer’s insight on family, friendship, male mental health  and suicide are revealed in stories based around his home town of Withernsea.

A Long Way Down Nick Hornby (chapter one) A dark comedy portrayal of four characters who accidentally meet on top of a tower block, all ready to jump to their death on New Year’s Eve. (also a film)

The Trick is to Keep Breathing Janice Galloway

Prozac Nation Elizabeth Wurtzel A memoir chronicling a young girls ‘battle’ with depression

In the Middle of the Road Iain Crichton Smith The author describes his own mental breakdown

Grace Notes Bernard Mackaverty About postnatal depression

The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman A short story about postnatal depression a great teaching resource.


In his book Arts for Health – Film, Steven Schlozman discusses how the film Michael Clayton (2007) can be used as a resource to explore bipolar illness.

Helen (2009) Depression


It was not death, for I stood up by Emily Dickinson is a profoundly bleak poem about the author’s experience of depression.


Music has the power to improve mood but can you think of a piece of music that conveys the symptoms associated with depression?

Created January 2023