Creativity and mental health


It’s everywhere…search Google for mental health and creativity and a whole host of famous politicians, artists, and activists can be found; each with their own history of mental health problems. Their contributions to society are well documented, but what of the subtext – their own battles with mental health problems?

As Aristotle said; “No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness.”

How often do we acknowledge the link between ‘greatness’ and Bipolar Disorder for example? It is not a word often associated with the highs and lows of emotional dis-regulation. However, there is significant evidence to suggest that these very highs and lows may be a key ingredient in the evolution of social and change, something we all benefit from.

Sadly, many of these great historical figures, such as Winston Churchill, went undiagnosed and unmedicated; forced to seek solace in alcohol and excess. Today, however, with the advent of greater access to psychotherapy and pharmacology, it might just be time to acknowledge and salute individuals who have the potential to offer such greatness to the world. Perhaps, if there was less stigma and negative press associated with mental health problems, we could remind ourselves of the talents that may be lying dormant in many people.

I have seen such talent, intellectual and emotional, in many clients. However, I also hear of their struggles integrating at work when a mental health disorder has been disclosed. If schools taught pupils a more balanced view of mental health difficulties, perhaps we could eradicate stigma altogether and champion all forms of creativity. Similarly, if employers could look beyond the idiosyncrasies associated with exuberance and innovative minds, they might just be privileged to bear witness to the next generation of ‘greatness’.