My latest piece for The Debrief explores the popular myth that mental illness and creativity are somehow intrinsically linked. This was a really interesting subject to dig into, and I had some fascinating conversations with young women who’ve experienced mental health problems, and with experts from Rethink Mental Illness and the University of Nottingham.
When you think of mental illness, what are the first things that come to mind? For many of us, so much of what little we know about mental health comes from cultural reference points – our literary heroines like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf; and so many of history’s great artists, composers and scientists.
It’s not surprising, then, that the common association between mental illness and brilliant minds persists – despite the fact that worrying stats published last week show as many as one in five women in England report symptoms of anxiety and depression.
We can’t all be struggling with our mental health because we’re creative geniuses (and, even if we are, there’s a very real danger that this long-running association glamourises mental illness) but just how much of a role does creativity and intelligence play in making us susceptible to mental illness? Are mental health problems simply the price you pay for having a ‘brilliant mind’? Well, the simple answer is no – but – it’s complicated.
IF YOU NEED SUPPORT
Please note that I am NOT a psychologist or healthcare professional. If you are struggling with mental health problems, contact Mind on 0300 123 3393 or Rethink Mental Health on 0300 5000 927. In a crisis, call the free, 24/7 Samaritans helpline on 116 123.
However, if you would like to get in touch about your own experiences, or a story that you’re keen to tell, please feel free to drop me an email.