In This Paper, I will be conducting a Media Discourse Analysis on a health awareness short animated film posted by World Health Organization (WHO, 2012) on YouTube. The video is written and illustrated by Matthew Johnstone who also have a book about illustrating his own story of overcoming depression. I will be also analyzing depression as a mental health disorder mentioning its symptoms and its preserving ways. In conclusion, this paper will prove how WHO is spreading mental health awareness campaigns through digital health communications, and how this specific animated video detects the symptoms of depression and how good it is to be cured.
Back in June 2015 I had a feeling of despair. I sat all day home, doing nothing, with zero energy. With time I started having panic attacks that made a friend worry who made me watch an animated video called “I had a black dog, his name was depression” by WHO. After watching it, I asked her to book an appointment for me with a psychiatrist, and that is how my depression days started fading away. This video helped me a lot with my depression back in 2015. Playing a role of awareness, it has succeeded to help me and many other people that I know. It was out on Oct 2 2012, for the celebration of global mental health day which is on the 10th of October. It is the day ofeducation, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. It was first celebrated in 1992. What are the main two point conducted in this video? And how were the symptoms of depression & seeking help well served in the purpose of the script and the visuals?
Feeling down is something very normal one can pass through, but if this mood became an everyday emotion, a person might be diagnosed by depression. Depression is a serious disease that can make one’s life overwhelming and hopeless. Since depression is a mental health disorder, one can recognize it and once the causes are understood, one can be treated. Depression is a mood disorder that is a big blues that comes in a form of reflection to life’s struggles. Depression stops the ability of the diagnosed to function in daily activities like working, studying, socializing, eating, sleeping or even enjoying life. It is a feeling of desperateness that is mostly referred to as “living in a black hole”. According to Helpguide website (2019) the 10 common symptoms of depression are “feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, appetite loss or weight changes, sleep changes, anger or irritability, loss of energy, self-loathing, reckless behavior, concentration problems, and unexplained aches and pains”. Many organizations are recently working on awareness campaigns to identify such disease. The most recommended one is the WHO mental health awareness campaign. The World Health Organization (2018) stated that globally over 300 million people suffer from this common mental health disorder. Also, WHO warns that depression can lead to suicide if it was at its worst cases and if it wasn’t treated well. Thankfully and hopefully, there are many effective ways, psychological and pharmacological, to stop this disorder. WHO is an organization that started on 7 April 1948 – a date we now celebrate every year as World Health Day. They work worldwide to endorse health, keep the world safe and support the defenseless. It maintenances Member States as they coordinate the efforts of multiple sectors of the government and partners. WHO associates with countries, United Nations system, international organizations, civil society, foundations, academia, research institutions – with people and communities to improve their health and support their development. Who conduct statistics ever year for this common illness, according to them, in the year of 2018 over 800,000 die due to suicide. “Suicide is the second leading cause to death in 15-29 year-olds” (WHO,2018). Social stigmas are one of the many reasons that has a huge impact on the sick person, that let him decide not to seek help. Seeking professional help is proven over the years to be the only way out. Effective treatments have been studied to prevent depression in winning over the battle. “Health care providers may offer psychological treatments such as behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT], and interpersonal psychotherapy [IPT] or antidepressant medication (such as selective serotine reuptake inhibitors [SSRIS] and tricyclic antidepressants [TCAS])” (WHO,2018). Depression can be cured, a person with such mental disordered is advised to visit a doctor by WHO, and this is a campaign WHO has been prioritizing over the years.
I had a Black Dog, his name was Depression
I will be analyzing the video textually and visually. The main ideas of the video are derived from the narrative and the animation, and they are two: Depression (The black dog becoming bigger) and Seeking Help (The black dog becoming smaller). Since Depression is known to be “living in a black hole” as mentioned above, this video shows these two macrostructures in the text and the animation, resulting from many microstructures. “Macro-structures are assumed to be sematic structures of discourse whose meaning and reference is defined in terms of the constituents” (Van Dijk, 1977). A representation of meanings is presented in major and main ideas in semiotics and contexts of a certain Media project. They are on high levels of global meaning. Whereas, micro structures are the small connotation and use of contexts that narrows down to numerous hidden meanings of a certain text or actions. I will first list the Macro-Structures derived from the text and scenes, and then I will narrow them down to multiple Micro-Structures.
Depression’s symptoms were strictly shown in the narrative of the text. It is one of the 2 macro-structure featured in the video.
Black, the common color of depression. Sad: every hour feeling people have during depression. Upset/hopeless/fear/no self-confidence/older/not enjoying/no pleasure/no appetite/no memory or memory loss/no concentration/not having fun/judgements/shame/stigma/very low or no energy/emotional lie/negative/difficult/no love/insomnia/the older the bigger the problem is/being down/no self-medication/isolated and loosing are the most precise symptoms of depression.
Listing the symptoms was successfully animated through the visuals, along with the text, and by mixing them together we get the first macro that is depression:
Sitting alone (0.4 s) where his shadow is a black dog. On the 7th second they show us that he is trying to get better and wondering who that black dog is by wearing a smiley face shirt and looking back to see who is following him. He sees the black dog in a mirror (0.12s) and that is him knowing how sad and down he is. Then life is seen through the black dog glasses (0.23s) which shows how negatively he thinks about everything. Another effective scene is showing the loss of appetite (0.33s) when we see the black dog sitting on the protagonist’s food. The memory loss is shown through the black dog digging in the mind (0.37s). We see that the black dog is trying to pull the man back, by not letting him go, and that means he is not letting him to go forward and to function (0.46s). The animated guy then looks very small which he feels insignificant (0.52s). He then tries to hide the black dog (1.00m), which means he is trying to hide all the struggles he is suffering from people, and this is exactly what social stigma is. That didn’t work for him as an emotional lie because we see him speaking a black dog cloud (1.12m). Black dog sleeps between him and his love, and causes him insomnia as we see the clock is 3 am (1.28m). Being depressed is more than being sad, it is a very cold feeling that prevents people from the ability to move, (1.36m) they show us him stuck in a very cold iced cube can’t melt it down. The more he tries to self-medicate the dog becomes bigger and the depression becomes inside him, as we see the dog inside the man (2.14m).
This is when seeking help as an awareness steps in textually and visually. It is the second macro idea in the video.
Through the Text: Seeking official help/recovery/change/learning/equal opportunity/approaches/game changer/not scared/quite your mind/exercise/anti-depressants/grateful/right steps/right people/incredible teacher/embrace the problems/understanding/never be afraid/ask for help.
Through the visuals:
The time the protagonist decided to seek help as we see (2.28m) a doctor holding a black dog book which is actually taking notes about his depression signs. We shouldn’t be shamed by such stigma as we see in the video many people have all sizes of dogs (2.32m). Then WHO shows us that medication pills are okay to use when subscribed by the doctor, a great way to let people know it can be cured (2.41m). He then came out to people and explained his case as we see the black dog on a screen with people listening to his stories (2.49). After that we see him becoming better by playing with the dog and tricking him (2.54m). He asks us to meditate and to quite our thoughts, since when people are depressed the mind wouldn’t stop writing scenarios; meanwhile the dog is left outside in the rain (3.05m). Exercising, is a big change, since the dog as shown in the video he can’t catch him anymore (3.11m). Write a mood journal and be with the right people and take the right steps, and that is visualized by him sitting on the right bench where the sun is hitting (3.34m). It will be a teacher, he hugs the dog and now the black dog is a pet (3.47m). Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help with WHO logo (4.07m).
This video comes in the form of popular culture since it is a short animated film and Social Media since it was firstly posted on YouTube. For a long time now, society is reflecting negative social attitudes towards those suffering from psychiatric disorders deriving from misconception and stigmas. According to WHO (2012) this situation is making the disorders bigger since the diagnosed individuals are being scared to ask for help or even hide their emotions in a state called an emotional lie. Media should help societies accept such stigma in order to seek help like WHO is doing. Health literacy is big game changer through media for the people since it will help a lot to understand what a mental health disorder diagnosed individual is feeling and what should be done to help. Health literacy is defined as (WHO, 2013): “The cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability to gain access to understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health.” In Short, according to Freud (1901), Psychoanalysis is a very good way to treat mental health disorders. When the patient knows his disease he will be cured. The patient can never study his own self because he will be either strictly negative or harshly positive toward himself. Distance should be taken by the “learner” and the “to be learned”, and that is by psychoanalysis. That is why we need to seek help and not try to self-medicate ourselves because we will be either subjectively guilty or subjectively right. We will not be curing ourselves.
WHO used an animated video to spread this kind of awareness. It is because depressed people usually wouldn’t identify with any real person talking or acting. The choice of animation in this campaign is very much effective. Animation is a great way to draw attention, because when an organization want to share info they want it not to be forgotten. Using colors and limiting a frame into what is mostly important can be easily framed in animated videos. Listing symptoms might be very hard for a normal video, animation here can step in with letting people use their visual memory. Depression and seeking help are two good choices of macrostructures a mental health awareness video can include. This video has proved to show people what a depressed person feel, and it was successful in letting diagnosed people seek help.
Dr. Nicolas Nicoli
University of Nicosia
Helpguide. (March, 2019). Depression Symptoms and warning signs, recognizing depression and getting the help you need. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs.htm
Van Dijk, T.A. (1977). Semantic Macro-Structures and Knowledge Frames in Discourse Comprehension. University of Amsterdam. WHO. (2019). About us. Retrieved from https://www.Who.Int/archives/about/en/.
WHO. (22 March,2018). Depression. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression