Monday, March 25, 2013

Mental Health in the Creative Community

    One of my most memorable experiences in medical school was participating in a project about mental health in the creative community. As it turns out, there are higher rates of depression and suicide among all types of artists in comparison to the rest of the population. Let's face it: everything from rejections to low pay to uncertainty can make the line of work brutal. Some of the artists I spoke with admitted that the dark, brooding, unhappy artist was a romanticized stereotype---a sign that the individual was taking his or her work more seriously. 

   Couple all of that with the fact that as an area of study, mental health was not always regarded as important. Thankfully, this has changed in recent years. The thing is, mental illness of any kind has a pervasive effect. Depression even changes sleep patterns. And unless you or a loved one has experienced it, it's difficult to truly understand. The worst thing anyone can do is tell someone to "just snap out of it." People aren't always encouraged to discuss it but that's one of the most important things someone can do when they are struggling.

   I realize this isn't the most pleasant topic to discuss but somehow, that seems to make it even more imperative. As writers, we always discuss innovative ways of improving our work and nurturing our craft but often, the most important thing for all of us is to take care of ourselves first. Reach out to your loved ones for support. Offer yourself to them when they need you. Be good to yourself. Distance yourself from anything toxic. 

    Most importantly, know if and when it is time to seek outside help or to tell your friend/family member that it's time.  There are professionals who are trained in coming up with customized therapy plans. Research has also shown that exercise and healthy diet can alleviate some symptoms. Don't fear that you are alone or that you have to let anything spiral out of control. 

                                                               Photo: Late night editing


  1. Someone else recently posted about depressed creative types, and I realize I am not the average creative person - I don't have real highs or lows. I'm pretty even keeled all the time. I guess that's a good thing.

  2. I've always thought it's that sensitivity that seems to come hand in hand with creativity that incubates the highs and lows. Very timely topic and I'm glad you've brought it to light. Too many suffer when it can be made better.

  3. As someone who suffers from chronic depression, I can assure you that depression doesn't enhance creativity. If anything, it destroys it.

    1. I have felt the same way, but really believe it's different for everybody, e.g. some depressed people can hardly ever eat, some others can't stop themselves from over eating . There are lots of artists who embrace their mania, and some insightful writing comes from the hand of people deep in, or recovered from depression. I definitely agree with Saumy, it is so important to care about ourselves and reach out. One of the most healing things anybody ever said to me was "If you are no good to yourself then you are no good for anybody.. " it hurt because it was true. One particularly bad depression for me, was actually one of the best years of my life, in amongst the anxiety, stress, apathy and weight of it all I learned to honour and be true to myself. I couldn't get out of bed, I couldn't work and unlike my incredibly strong mother, I wasn't going to pretend so I didn't even try, but I did spew out a few angry words in a handwritten journal (that is gold to me now) and I coloured in a lot of pretty mandala's - I hope you find some creativity in amongst the chaos too.

  4. I'm surprised how rarely I see anything about mental health with all the writing blogs I follow. I've struggled with it myself, (And I'm guilty, I only mentioned it one post, too, only mentioned it). My solution to my depression was mostly faith-based, so I've been hesitant to share it. In a very early bout of depression, I worked through it with my writing, but later had to scrap almost everything I wrote because it was so dark! (it was actually condensed from 50 pages down to 5. I was really rambling!)