Do art and depression go hand in hand?

What is the image that comes to your mind when you think of an artist? Let me guess- constantly smoking, brooding over a blank canvas, contemplating every stroke of their brush and jumping up at the slightest distractions. It also makes you wonder what sort of demons they are battling on the inside to be so fitful and anxious. And if every artist you know is not in the right state of their mind, then it must tell us something, right?

It does feel like there is a connection

Kurt Cobain, the lead vocalist of Nirvana, committed suicide on April 5th, 1994, has become a prominent icon of art and depression correlation.
Kurt Cobain, the lead vocalist of Nirvana, committed suicide on April 5th, 1994.

We, as a society, romanticize mental illness. We believe that people who battle depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia must be so strong. Examples like Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, Earnest Hemmingway and Virginia Woolf only feeds into these hypotheses. There have also been studies that show a link between creativity and mental illness. For example, one study in England, conducted by the national office of statistics, found that people working in the arts industry were four times more likely to kill themselves. Another study conducted in 2013 said that authors were more prone to severe mental disorders like depression, bipolar syndrome, schizophrenia, substance abuse and many more.

Is that the whole story, though? Do arts and mental illness really go hand in hand?

Well, it might seem so, but all these studies are inconclusive.

Correlation or Coincidence?

Do art and depression go hand in hand?

A lot of external factors can come into play when it comes to a person’s mental health. There can be past traumas, genetic links, or simply a fact of a disruptive lifestyle. None of these factors can make a person more creative than s/he already is. But it seems that only the people struggling with mental issues are thriving as artists. Believing that is not completely on us, because like I said, we tend to romanticize mental issues. But according to numerous psychologists, claiming that only depressed, anxious people are more creative will be an overkill. True, art is a way of dealing with whatever hardships life throws at you. Sometimes, people who are trying to deal with all of their emotions tend to get mentally sick. They express those struggles through words, music and brush strokes.

However, there are a large number of artists who are just as creative, just as famous and they do not have any sort of apparent mental struggles. In fact, the latter might be more in number. Having a mental health issue isn’t a necessity for an artist. Sometimes it just works as a catalyst.

Call a spade a spade

Do art and depression go hand in hand?

Bottom line, the next time you see someone torturing themselves and giving excuses like “it’s for my art”, drag their behind to a shrink. There can be a deeply rooted identity crisis within these people. There is a possibility that they keep themselves miserable just because they do not know who they would be without this part of themselves.

Read more: 5 places in Dhaka to get counselling help.

Whatever the case is, these people are capable of living a healthy life filled with both joy and sadness. They don’t have to be depressed for the sake of art. Tell them that. Help them heal. And someday, they will thank you for it.

Vital answers about teen depression and suicide

The transition from childhood to adulthood is often challenging and tumultuous, and it is during this period that some teenagers and young adults first experience depression and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, depression is a much more widespread problem than most people think.

Not every young adult will suffer from depression or contemplating suicide, of course, but it’s important for parents to pay attention to their child’s behaviour as he or she gets older and to allow for open and honest communication. Parents can be better prepared to support a child who may be depressed or suicidal by educating themselves about these mental health issues.

Here are just a few of the questions that parents of young adults often have about depression and suicide, accompanied by answers from the mental health treatment centre, Yellowbrick.

Question: How do I know if my child is depressed?

Answer: It’s hard to say if a young adult is depressed or simply “going through a moody phase”.  There are no reliable indicators of an impending suicide attempt, but there are some common signs that could mean someone is experiencing depression. These might include a loss of interest in activities that your child once enjoyed, isolation from friends and family, changes in sleeping patterns (either lack of sleep or excessive sleep), changes in appetite or eating patterns, low energy levels, or sudden mood swings. Some young adults may also attempt to use drugs and alcohol to cope with depression. Substance abuse is not necessarily an indicator of suicidal thoughts, but it does increase the risk of a depressed individual attempting suicide.

Question: What might my child be going through after a suicide attempt?

Answer: It is not uncommon for young adults to experience feelings of shame and guilt after a failed suicide attempt. These feelings may cause them to withdraw from their loved ones further, increasing their actual or perceived social isolation. Unfortunately, young adults who have attempted suicide once have a higher risk for another attempt, as the first attempt may have a gateway effect on the risk-reward center of the brain.

Let them know that they can talk to you without fear of being judged.

Question: How can I best support my child after a suicide attempt?

Answer: Because a young adult who has attempted suicide may be experiencing shame, one of the most valuable things you can do as a parent is to demonstrate your unconditional acceptance of your child. Offer to support your child in whatever way he or she needs at this time, and talk to your child about seeing a therapist or counsellor. Empathize with your child even if they are experiencing frustration and anger.  Let them know that they can talk to you without fear of being judged.

Felt really down and didn’t know where to get help? Here is a list to help you next time.

October 10th was World Mental Health Day, an opportunity to talk about mental health.
What do you do, if you are in Dhaka, having a really bad day and need help?

Reaching this conclusion is an amazing feat in itself. There is enough stigma, social and personal barriers that prevent people from going to a therapist. You do not have to be diagnosed with anything, you are not ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’. Sometimes its just nice (and necessary) to talk to a professional, who has the tools to listen.

Here are a couple of places that we recommend.  Our recommendations are based on therapists who seem non-judgemental, are easy to talk to, maintain confidentiality while meeting mental health and wellness needs :

Praava Health

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/praavahealth/

Address: House 9, Road 17, Block C, Banani, 1213 Dhaka

Phone Number: 09678701701

Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic – PHWC

Facebook:facebook.com/PHWCDhaka/phwcbd.org

Website: http://phwcbd.org/ 

Address:3rd Floor, Caldwell Centre, House 54, Rd No. 11, Block C, Banani, Dhaka 1213

Phone Number: 01777-772764

Opening hours: Sunday-Wednesday 9.00 – 19.00, Thursday 9.00 – 17.00, Saturday 10.00 – 18.00

You can request English speaking therapists if needed.

Healing Heart Counseling Unit

Facebook:facebook.com/healingheart2010/

Address: House 121, Road 6, Block-B, Bashundhara R/A, Dhaka

Phone Number: 01752-074497

Nasirullah Psychotherapy Unit

Facebook: facebook.com/pg/npudcp.bd

Website: npudu.org

Address: 3rd floor, Arts Building (beside Population Science Dept.), Dhaka University

Phone Number: +880 1755654835, +880 1727906007