The link between creativity and mood disorders has long been pondered by experts.
In fact, more than 20 research studies suggest an increased rate of bipolar and depressive illnesses in highly creative people. From Ernest Hemingway to Sylvia Plath and Vincent Van Gogh to Kurt Cobain, creative individuals can exhibit emotional disorders.
That’s why teachers and administrators in middle-and high-school settings should be attuned to expressions of creativity in students, because these might suggest a need for help.
“Especially art teachers, plus music and English teachers,” notes Keith Hotle, who oversees suicide prevention efforts for the state through the Wyoming Dept. of Health. “These teachers may see highly creative students who are hypersensitive, brooding or medicating their feelings with drugs or alcohol. These may suggest a child at risk for self harm.”
Emotional disorders do not necessarily cause creativity, nor does creativity necessarily contribute to these disorders, say experts. But a certain brooding type of personality may contribute to both mental health issues and artistic expression.
The call to action for adults who engage with youths? Awareness and vigilance, says Hotle. “Knowing what signs to look for in kids, signs that may place them at risk for self-injurious acts that at their worst could culminate in suicide.”