Mental Health In Art


Chanel Hamilton, Staff Writer

 An estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 years and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” According to John Hopkins Medicine. Mental Health disorders account for most of the top causes of disability throughout the world. A lot of art is influenced by mental health disorders.“ Mental illnesses have a large impact on the sufferer’s creativity and how they express themselves. Many household names in the art world have dealt with mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, mania, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. These illnesses and their impacts are apparent in some of the world’s most famous paintings, literature, etc” According to Google and Culture.

If we look at some of the most famous names in art, Vincent Van Gogh was thought to have had manic depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder with reports of aggression and hallucinations which lead to him cutting off his ear in a fit of rage. Despite Van Gogh’s extensive history of mental health issues, he has created some of the most legendary pieces of art that will continue to be appreciated for many years to come. “Van Gogh’s posthumously famous painting, Starry Night was created when he was incapacitated for his mental health. Starry Night is said to depict the view from his window in the asylum he was in.” Van Gogh once said, “I put my heart and my soul into my work, and lost my mind in the process”. But I can’t help but wonder, did his work really influence his mental health or was it just an outlet for his pre-existing mental health issues? I guess we’ll never really know.

Another example is Edvard Munch, who painted a lot of ghastly images with dark colors to express his interpretation of the world. Munch was said to have experienced anxiety and hallucinations. In one of Munch’s most famous paintings, The Scream (one of my personal favorites by the way) was inspired by a unique experience where he saw the sky turn blood red during an evening walk, he began to tremble with anxiety as he felt an “infinite scream” through nature. It has become very evident that there is a great connection between mental illness and art, many famous artists like Van Gogh and Munch were mentally plagued and decided to share their perspectives with the world which birthed beautiful art pieces. 

So, the question is, Is creativity linked to mental illness? Yes, mental illness is linked to creativity although creativity can exist without the presence of a mental illness. Being creative doesn’t inherently make you mentally ill and vice versa. Although, there are studies that show that mental illness can aid in creativity. Many artists that have mental issues tend to express their unique view of the world through their art, like Munch with the scream. Munch painted the strange blood coming from the sky, depicting the “ infinite scream” that only he could hear. The events from his painting was a phenomenon that is not necessarily a relatable one which draws people in, different points of views can be very intriguing to others. The uniqueness of the art is what draws people in. People that have experienced what the artist has depicted love that they can relate and others want to relate and understand struggles beyond their comprehension. Despite the connection between artists and depression, most suicidal deaths occur with medical doctors. This is pretty interesting since there is no apparent connection between mental illness and the medical field. This goes to show that mental health isn’t inherently connected with creativity.