Swedish researchers at Karolinska Institute recently completed a study finding a link between creativity and mental illness. More specifically, there is a connection between writing and schizophrenia. Researchers conducted and extensive analysis of people with mental health disorders and what their profession was. They looked at individuals and then their family units. Their study started with a wide range of disorders- schizoaffective disorders, depression, anxiety disorder, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia, and suicide. About 1.2 million people and their relatives were included.
Dancers, researchers, photographers, and authors were the most common profession to show these disorders. Artists and scientists were more common among families where bipolar and schizophrenia disorders were present. Artists and scientists are more common among families where bipolar and schizophrenia disorders are present. Authors specifically showed schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse symptoms and were 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
Given this research, one would beg the question, do you have to be mentally ill to be a good writer? Or, are you more likely to be a good writer if you demonstrate some mental illness tendencies? Many intuitively believe this to be the case and now there may be some empirical research to support it.
Jack Keroac is said to have had schizophrenia, Virginia Wolf was clinically depressed and wound up hanging herself, Sylvia Plath suffered from bipolar disorder-it seems like the list goes on and on. I wonder if it is the thinking process and the way their minds worked that made them so good at their craft or if the results of their illness was the material that gave them good things to write about. If you are depressed and then you become an alcoholic to cope with your illness and as result, you lose your family, your job and your outlook on life does that then become great writing material and give you a perspective on life that is rich with meaning and symbolism? Or it is your very way of looking at the world-a by-product of your mental illness-the reason you are good at your craft?
Since people with the disorders listed go toward creative professions, researchers feel the results require them to reconsider their approaches to mental illness. Some patient’s illness can be viewed as beneficial, only certain parts need to be treated. The doctor and patient decide what to be treated at what cost. The medical field usually is black and white and the doctor must treat anything seen as negative or harmful to a person. But with this new perspective, people can decide what illnesses they want to keep or treat. This study reminds me of the laws that have been changed to allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Marijuana is a drug and that is how most people view it, not as a medical treatment. Bending the rules is a slippery slope because in this case, unstable people may remain untreated by choice but also, ignorant people who may not know that a certain medicine is unnecessary could save money by remaining unmedicated.
I think communities would feel they are in a less safe environment. People might lose trust in their peers because they hear that they have a mental illness but that they are not being treated. I think this is a form of false confidence too. People can be told that they are special and head into the world with a misconstrued sense of reality.
I think some illnesses are real and need to be treated. With such high crime rates due to low intelligence and poor gene pools, some people really are crazy. And I think that is what is wrong with our society, that we are unable to face reality. People want to believe that they’re special but not everyone is; some people are downright crazy. It is dangerous to let the patient have a say in their diagnosis and treatment because someone who shouldn’t be trusted, would perhaps get away with a serious and dangerous mental illness. Creativity may require a person to have an illness but crimes are also done by people with a defect. It is important to distinguish positive and negative within creativity and mental illnesses.