Do you think there's a link between mental health and creativity?
Comic Con does.
That's right, one of the biggest, international organisers of creative events is acknowledging this connection exists - and that it's worth talking about. They started the mental health and creativity convo with a panel discussion at this year's Oz Comic Con in Brisbane.
The panellists were, of course, creatives themselves: Vacen Taylor, Playwright and Author; Kate Foster, Editor and Founder of Lakewater Press; Tash Turgoose, Illustrator and Author; Kathryn Gossow, Writer and Storyteller; and, our very own Creative Director, Goran - Storyteller, Author, Content Creator and Concepts Guy.
With rates of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses on the rise, we at Gothic Zen feel it's important to continue the mental health and creativity discussion. We're also passionate about this topic because we know - without doubt - the connection is REAL and that it's impacting lives globally.
To give you insight into the connection between mental health and creativity, Goran's sharing his thoughts and experiences on the topic.
What is your understanding of mental health?
According to the World health Organisation, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
This is a great clinical definition, however I'd like to expand on it by saying mental health is complex and subjective. It means something different to everyone. For example, one person could observe another and deduce, after watching their actions, that they have a mental illness. Interestingly, a different person could observe the same behaviour and view it as 'normal'.
How has mental health impacted the creativity of artists you work with?
I am fortunate to know some really inspirational artists who produce amazing work as a result of their mental health issues. At the moment, I am in the process of producing a documentary about creative depression. One of the people I've interviewed expresses his emotions through painting sacred geometry. His creations are the result of voices in his head and his separation from the material world. The medical profession diagnosed him as autistic, schizophrenic and depressed; his medication regime is immense. However, looking at his art you don't see signs of mental illness; rather, you see deep emotion and an image that demands attention. After speaking with many people who deal with creative depression, I have found that people who are more critical of themselves seem to produce more emotive work. The art itself can be in any form, such as music, literature, filmmaking and so on.
Have you been effected by the stigma of mental health?
There is greater awareness associated with mental health issues these days, which has helped reduce the amount of stigma attached to it. When I was in primary school it was very different. Despite having no physical signs of illness, I recall going to sick bay quite often. Back then, very little was known about panic attacks and the doctors told my parents I was suffering from growing pains. Apparently, what I was going through was normal. I thought that meant that every kid had it, but they just dealt with it better than me. Quite vividly, I recall the school receptionist telling me in a rude way that I needed to see a shrink. I had no idea what that meant and, when I asked my aunty about it, I felt even more messed up. Today there are many support networks available for a variety of health conditions, which is helping to lessen the mental health stigma - thankfully.
As a creative who's overcome many challenges in your life, how do you think artists can support each another to encourage better mental health?
It is important for artists to mingle with other artists. Our mindset is generally a little different compared to that of our corporate or 9-5 friends. There's a unique set of processes, challenges, ups and downs synonymous with this way of life, and it is crucial to connect with others who truly understand this. However, I also believe it's beneficial to step of our comfort zone when it comes to mingling. Rather than sticking with your own creative tribe, which can sometimes be counterproductive and stagnating, try mixing with a variety of different people who represent different arts, such as photographers, musicians, filmmakers, painters and so forth. This cross-pollination can help build confidence and ignite an organic supportive network. It could lead to personal and professional development. As long as the ego is left at home, there is always opportunity to help a fellow artist and gain respect for your contributions to society.
What are your final thoughts on maintaining good mental health, whether they relate to creatives or the wider community?
Good mental health can be as simple as keeping good company. Try and have positive people around you and encourage real relationships. The lure of social media when we want attention is something that needs to be kept in check. Many people make the mistake of believing their worth is based on the amount of Likes or Followers they have online. Worth is measured by action, not a machine. Show someone they are worth your time by having a coffee with them, giving eye contact, a handshake, a hug, a kiss on the cheek. Offer something that is genuine and not an easy way out, such as the click of a button. There is so much emotional risk involved in social media, and if an artist is vulnerable, he or she could spiral further into depression. Social media is simply a tool to share information; it can never replace a real relationship or truly reflect the compassion of a person. A thousand heart emojis is no substitute for showing someone you care in person.
.....Now it's over to you. We'd love you to share with us your thoughts or experiences of Mental Health and Creativity in the comments below.