Creativity and mental illness

Being creative is a wonderful thing. You can dream up ideas no-one else has thought of. You can put these ideas down on a paper or a canvas. You can approach problems from a different perspective, convey a mood in one picture, and even invent things that make people’s lives easier.

But in all its wonderfulness, the darker side of creativity is often ignored. Many creatives suffer from mental health problems and the stigma that still surrounds these issues means they aren’t always getting the help they need.

Several studies suggest there’s a link between creativity and mental health issues, particularly with mood disorders. One found that people in creative professions are 25% more likely to carry the genes that increase the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder than those in less creative roles. While this doesn’t mean more creative professionals will have the conditions, and many dispute the evidence that claims connections between creativity and mental illness, mental health issues sadly aren’t uncommon in creative people.

The environments creatives often work in aren’t always the best for mental wellbeing with high-pressure workplaces being pretty common in the creative industry. Client demands, tight deadlines, or even just company culture means work/life balance can get thrown out the window. It’s a simple recipe for stress and burnout. 

The nature of creative jobs can also lend itself to mental illness. Being creative on demand isn’t easy and many are fuelled by doubt over whether their work is good enough. There’s also criticism to face on a regular basis. It’s easy for all of these things to wear a person down, and what’s worse is that many feel they can’t say anything about it out of fear they may be brushed off or even fired.

There are many things employers can do to help their staff facing mental health problems and the creative industry has an opportunity to tackle the stigma of mental illness both inside and out. Mental health issues aren’t yet well represented in advertising and British marketers feel it’s an area the industry has made very little progress on. By being open about mental health both in the workplace and in work produced, the industry could make a huge impact in reducing social stigma.

Companies should also have initiatives in place to tackle mental illness and make sure employees are aware they’ll be given support if they ever need it. Training managers to be sensitive to mental illness and offering time out or time off can really make a difference. Mental health charity Mind has a great guide on how to support staff facing mental health problems . 

The tortured artist is not someone to romanticise. Mental health issues are horrible to deal with and even worse if you can’t get the help you need. Health should always come first whether it’s physical or mental and the industry needs to recognise it.

Mental health help and support services

Annabelle MayorComment