Melancholy, the Muse and Mental Health Promotion: An Analysis of the Complex Relationship Between Mood Disorder and Creativity, Developing a Specific Model of Mental Health Promotion
The notion that creativity and genius often feed off mental turmoil is not new: - the Ancient Greeks, such as Aristotle, believed there was a direct correlation between brilliance and madness. In the Renaissance, melancholy almost had a fashionable cachet – denoting sensibility. This was revived in the Romantic Movement of the 19 Century, when poets such as Bryon spoke of the ‘apostle of affliction, he who threw enchantment over passion and from woe wrung overwhelming eloquence.’
However, documentary evidence suggests the popular image of the ‘mad artist’, whose suffering is an inevitable and necessary prerequisite for creative success, is overly simplistic. Many creative people have not suffered any form of psychological disturbance. Moreover, creative achievement of any value requires strengths or traits of character, such as perseverance through difficulties and the ability to tolerate uncertainty, i.e. ‘healthy’ attributes.
A range of surveys in the 20 Century have explored the link between creative eminence and prominent mood swings. However, these studies, whilst a rich source of information on the link between talented individuals and depression have stopped short of identifying any potential benefits and new learning that may be of value to non-artists.
The overall aim of the research was to determine and analyse the common key factors of individuals with distinct creative aptitudes who also suffer from mood disorder and how difficult experiences and feelings can be positively harnessed to stimulate creative activity.
Keywords: Ph.D. Thesis, with the development of a mental health promotion model intended to have a practical application with sufferers of mood disorder
Dr. Judith Pauline Lee Lee
Director of Education, The Education Department, The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health
Over recent years her role has been increasingly in mental health promotion, teaching and research. She is a lecturer with the University of Ulster and is currently engaged in post graduate research in the field of mental health promotion.