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VJ Cast
+61 459 020 799

VJ Cast
+61 459 020 799



PO BOX 164
Russell Island, QLD 4184




TITLE: Challenging the Black Dog
SUBTITLE: A Creative Outlet for Tackling Depression
PUBLISHER: Offbeat Brains
SIZE: Trade 6 x 9 in (15 × 23 cm)
ON SALE: June 25, 2018
RRP: AU$24.99 / US$19.99
ISBN-13: 9780648247401
PAGES: 234



Long form copy for newsletters, email campaigns, blog posts, etc.

Challenging the Black Dog
A Creative Outlet for Tackling Depression

First-time non-fiction author, VJ Cast, has just released a fantastic new creative therapy journal specially designed for Young Adults (15-25) dealing with depression by someone who has 25 years of “been there, done that” lived experience with mental illness.

Challenging the Black Dog is a thoughtful and creative resource for teenagers and young adults dealing with depression. With an abundance of written exercises and innovative probes, it serves as an intimate guide to self-discovery and constructive change. I strongly recommend it not only for those who are experiencing the pain of depression but for all who wish to reflect deeply with the personal factors that can bring us darkly down and those that can bring us back to renewal and light.BRIAN R. LITTLE, Ph.D., Fellow, Well-Being Institute, Cambridge University

Created under the guidance of a qualified psychologist the journal aims to provide a safe, private place for users to get to know their Black Dog—to explore and tackle their depression. It does so through a combination of therapy techniques including narrative and music therapy, art/creative therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and mindfulness. The journal also includes trigger and mood logs, mental health resource lists, and stress-relieving colouring pages.

Because of its format Challenging the Black Dog lends itself readily to being used as a form of guided self-therapy for those unable (or unwilling) to access other medical interventions, or in conjunction with other medical resources, such as psychologists and counsellors. With use and time, this journal can help transform users into an active participant in their journey towards recovery from depression.

So, start the challenge of leashing your Black Dog and reclaim control over your psychological well-being.



Shortform copy for blurbs.

Dismissing the idea that the experience of depression is ‘one size fits all’ Challenging the Black Dog isn’t your typical therapy workbook, which only adds to the appeal. VJ Cast, who has 25 years of “been there, done that” lived experience with mental illness, does not hand you answers in her new creative journal, but instead sets you up to find them yourself and allows you take back control on your own terms. http://www.offbeatbrains.com/




Also available: Challenging the Black Dog Cover Art – All Panels [PDF]


In the event you need the Offbeat Brains logo, you can find print-quality files here (EPS) and here (JPG).




Long Version

VJ is a first-time non-fiction author, introvert, and co-parent of a home-schooled tween on the spectrum.

She’s spent over two decades struggling with depression, trichotillomania (hair pulling), social anxiety, disordered eating (EDNOS), and bipolar II. Fibromyalgia enjoys kicking her ass, so she’s close friends with numerous hot water bottles.

She spent her teen years living overseas, which involved a period of carrying a gas-mask at school (Gulf War I) and surviving a Molotov cocktail landing on her bed and setting fire to it while she was in it. These days she lives on one of the South Moreton Bay Islands off the coast of South East Queensland, Australia which has an incredible abundance of wildlife, but far too many friendly mosquitoes in summer.

As a grand-daughter of Sir John Gorton, she was often encouraged by her high school teachers to follow in his political footsteps. She decided her lack of a poker face (and, occasionally, tact) made this a terrible idea. Instead, she pursued a more creative path, receiving an Advanced Diploma in Editing and has almost completed studies for a Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing & Publishing) at Curtin University in Western Australia via Open Universities Australia.

She would describe her (lack of) relationship with social media as ‘it’s complicated.’


Short Version

VJ is a non-fiction author, introvert, and co-parent of a home-schooled tween.

She has spent over two decades struggling with depression, social anxiety, trichotillomania, disordered eating (EDNOS), and bipolar II. Fibromyalgia enjoys kicking her ass, so she’s close friends with many hot water bottles.

She likes poking her dog when he’s sleeping, comfy pants with pockets, layering silver bracelets, and making a mess with numerous DIY projects. She dislikes (most) social media, having to wear makeup, photographs of herself, running low on iced coffee and watching her child grow up.

She lives on a small island off the coast of South East Queensland with an abundance of wildlife and way too many friendly mosquitoes.

Her hair colours, like her medications, are subject to change.









We need to ditch the ‘one size fits all’ stereotype of depression and anxiety, and in her book, VJ Cast provides a creative outlet for young people to be artistic, to vent if they feel like it, or to explore their thoughts and feelings in a safe, private way.

Professor Jane Burns
University of Sydney
Founder. Chair. Strategic Advisor


Challenging the Black Dog is immensely creative, using humour and intentional questions to encourage personal reflection. In the busyness of life slowing down and finding positive ways to manage depression is essential. Challenging the Black Dog provides information, tips and tricks on a wide range of topics in an interactive format to encourage the reader to actively participate in their recovery and tell their own story. There’s something for everyone in this book.

Associate Professor James Scott
Child and Youth Psychiatrist
Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research


Challenging the Black Dog is a thoughtful and creative resource for teenagers and young adults dealing with depression. With an abundance of written exercises and innovative probes, it serves as an intimate guide to self-discovery and constructive change. I strongly recommend it not only for those who are experiencing the pain of depression but for all who wish to reflect deeply with the personal factors that can bring us darkly down and those that can bring us back to renewal and light.

Brian R. Little, PhD.
Fellow, Well-Being Institute
Cambridge University


Challenging the Black Dog is a resource for depression sufferers by a depression sufferer. VJ’s approach provides a very specific type of compassion and understanding that’s only available from lived experience, yet still manages to get across the idea of personal accountability for recovery.  It is a treasure trove of ideas, strategies and bite-sized prompts which can be added to by the reader.  An experimental approach is encouraged!  Importantly it provides hope and will complement professional expertise.

Patrick McGorry AO MD PhD FRANZCP
Professor of Youth Mental Health

Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health and the University of Melbourne


Challenging the Black Dog reminded me of the strength I gained as I went through my depression and anxiety. Although at the time it felt impossible to have any kind of happiness, I look back now and see my depression as a blessing. I used a few techniques in this book, ones that I had to research on my own since sitting in front of psychiatrists wasn’t my piece of cake. I’m also very stubborn too.

There are many old and new ones in this book that I wish I had back then to help me tame my Black Dog. They are ones that I can still use today in my everyday life. There are techniques here to help calm your ‘Black Dog’ and create awareness about what triggers the darkness.

Similar to training our muscles to become stronger, our minds can be trained to be strong and content. We can train our ‘Black Dog,’ all we need is a little bit of guidance to get there. This book is a resource that you can use as a guide to psychological well-being. It guides you to see the courage and strength that you have to step into the light.

You don’t have to have depression and/or anxiety to read this. It has tools that you can use in everyday life. Your life is the most unique thing you’ll ever have. No one gets to live your life but you. You have the power to shape it the way you want it to be, and this book is about you. You can write in it, draw, vent, scribble random things that are important and inspire you. Treat it as your companion. It’s here to help and encourage you. It’s a support crew in your corner, there to use anytime, anywhere.”

Belle Brockhoff
Professional Snowboarder &  2x Olympian

Instagram @bellebrockhoff / Twitter @bellebrockhoff


Challenging the Black Dog presents a refreshingly original approach to grappling with depression. The exercises here spark a creative process that simultaneously grounds and explores. I wish I’d had this book in my teens and twenties.

Mark Pellegrino
Actor, Supernatural and 13 Reasons Why


Challenging the Black Dog is a great addition to the resources available for young people with depression. The book is easy to use and allows consumers to easily relate to images and messages which resonate with young people. In particular, VJ’s own lived experience of depression at a young age makes the messages ring true.

Dr Ted Cassidy MB BS FRANZCP
Psychiatrist & CEO TMS Australia


What a brilliant idea — Challenging the Black Dog is a creative resource, designed to support personal reflection and insight into the experience of depression.  And why shouldn’t the exploration of depression be creative, stimulating and ultimately uplifting? Challenging the Black Dog effectively takes the currently popular, designer “happiness journal” to a new level and depth, confronting the reality of living with depression in a format that can be both pleasurable and relatable.

Professor Jill Bennett
Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow, UNSW AUSTRALIA
Director of The Big Anxiety: festival of arts + science + people

thebiganxiety.org T: @thebiganxiety


Challenging the Black Dog isn’t about replacing professional medical help, but, it will no doubt be an effective road-map to those who are lost and seeking guidance. Challenging the Black Dog is significant in that it does not hand you answers, but rather sets you up to find them yourself.

Sam Webb
Actor + Co-founder of the mental
health organisation, LIVIN.
samwebb.com.au / livin.org
Instagram @samwebb / FB @ samwebbau



The Scary Statistics:

– Up to 75% of mental disorders begin within the developmental window of 14-26.
– There has been a 70% increase in teen depression in the last 25 years alone.
20% of teens will experience depression before adulthood.
– Depression is the leading cause of disability for people over 5 years of age worldwide.
– Without some form of treatment, symptoms of depression tend to last much longer and may never get better.
– Depression can lead to self-harm with 90% of people who engage in self-harm beginning during their teem or pre-adolescent years.
– People who self-harm during their teens are 100x more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
Untreated depression is considered the #1 cause of suicide, associated with more than 90% of cases.
– Almost 1 million lives worldwide are lost to suicide each year.
– Presently, youth are the highest risk group for suicide in 1/3rd of all countries.

Despite Knowing This:

75% of teen depression sufferers are under-treated or not treated at all.
– Despite the rise in teen depression there hasn’t been an overall increase in mental health treatment for adolescents + young adults.
– In fact, most governments spend only 3% of their health budgets on mental health.
– In developed nations governments only spent an average of $1.50 per person for depression treatment annually.

The Good News:

80% of teens suffering from depression can be significantly helped by self-therapy, psychotherapy and/or medication.
– Studies show that self-directed therapy can be very effective.
– Studies also reveal that for every $1 invested in scaling up depression treatments leads to a $4 return in better health and ability to work, plus could help lower the human cost of of lives to suicide.

Sources: World Health Organization, Time Magazine, Suicide.org, OECD.org, Befrienders.org, The Guardian, and Rueters.

Download Offbeat Brain’s infographic on youth depression, self-harm and suicide statistics here (JPG).



„> Who was Challenging the Black Dog written for?

„> Why did you choose to write Challenging the Black Dog for a Young Adult audience?

„> Why did you choose to create Challenging the Black Dog in a journal format?

> „What was the inspiration behind the illustrations in Challenging the Black Dog?

> „What therapy practices did you draw from when writing Challenging the Black Dog?

„> How do you recommend readers use Challenging the Black Dog?

„> What are the benefits of journalling? How does it help depression?

> What are the benefits of art therapy for people with depression?

„> Did you work with any mental health professionals while creating the journal?

„> Why do you think there has been a massive increase in youth depression?

„> What have your own experiences with mental illness been like?

> Do you recommend any particular treatments over others for depression?

> „Why is mental health advocacy so important to you?

„> If there was only one thing that readers could take away from Challenging the Black Dog what would it be?


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