It has long been accepted as fact that people who engage in any form of creativity as a career are more likely to be depressed, obsessive, anxious, suicidal or schizophrenic than the rest of society.
However, upon closer inspection, there has actually never been enough research done to confirm this.
This article is not to disregard the number of creatives who do suffer from mental health illnesses, but instead to explore, from a factual standpoint, if the belief that creativity does indeed share a uniquely common link to mental illness, is actually accurate.
One of the most commonly cited studies was conducted in 1987 by Nancy Andreasen who did a controlled study of 30 writers. it has since been qickely criticised. One reason being that the mental health problems were diagnosed via interviews. It is also argued that the interviewer was not blinded to whether or not people were writers, which could skew the results. It was also revealed that the writers had chosen to visit a writing retreat, known to be a place where people sought sanctuary, so perhaps those writers were more likely to feel troubled in the first place.
But does it simply take a view of artists and performers from Vincent Van Gogh to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Robin Williams, whose lives ended abruptly due to their challenges with their mental health, to see that a pettern does exist?
Another side of the coin would be: Does this pattern exist the way it does because these artists are in the public eye? Will comparative research involving a wider range of jobs – in and out of the creative umbrella – expose us to something different?
With the creative industry itself covering an incredibly vast number of areas, any research would find it difficult to give an accurate answer to this question.
Mental illness amongst creatives has been linked to the pressure, from themselves and society, to be as good as their greatest work. These pressures exist and are real, but they do in fact exist in other career trajectories too.
But science has shown that artistic production can be used as therapy in helping individuals to cope with psychological conditions as such thinking can help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and, to some extent, be construed as empowering to patients.
The bottomline is this: More needs to be done to educate people on ways to take care of themselves or their loved ones who have gone through or are showing signs of one or more of such mental illnesses, casting aside the belief that their choice of career makes them a lower or higher risk to themselves and others.
Image Credit : Wall Street Journal