Our Comm 14 professor mentioned that creative people who cannot express the fullness of their creativity are like ticking time bombs. Take for example Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gogh, Amy Winehouse, and other artistic people who died either of overdose or suicide. No one knows why they did it despite their outputs in life. So out of curiosity I decided to research about it.
Musical creativity and suicide
The different abilities involved in artistic creativity may be mirrored by differences among mental disorders prevalent in each artistic profession, taking poets, painters, and composers as examples. Using suicide rates as a proxy for the prevalence of mental disorders in groups of artists, we investigated the percentage of deaths by suicide in a sample of 4,564 eminent artists who died in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of the sample, 2,259 were primarily involved in activities of a linguistic nature, e.g., poets and writers; 834 were primarily visual artists, such as painters and sculptors; and 1,471 were musicians (composers and instrumentalists). There were 63 suicides in the sample (1.3% of total deaths). Musicians as a group had lower suicide rates than literary and visual artists. Beyond socioeconomic reasons, which might favour interpretations based on effects of health selection, the lower rate of suicides among musicians may reflect some protective effect arising from music.
Creativity, depression and suicide
The relationship between suicide and creativity has long been a subject of considerable concern. The author presents evidence indicating that in fact depression, suicide, and creativity are related. Several hypotheses for the relationship are posited. It is suggested that the same changes in the serotonergic system that are associated with depression in general and with impulsive suicides and homicides in the extreme may also be responsible for an element of risk taking that characterizes creativity and innovation in a person psychodynamically predisposed to being creative.
The relation between depression and art
The relationships between depression and art are many and varied. Examples of poets, novelists, and musicians spring to mind who have vividly portrayed depression, usually from personal experience of it. These portrayals often had a psychohygienic significance for the artists concerned–as in the case of Goethe, who, in writing ‘The sorrows of young Werther’, exorcised his own suicidal impulses and thoughts, thus probably saving his own life. Artists have also depicted the physiognomy of depressives, e.g. Hans Baldung Grien in his picture ‘Saturn’ showing the pronounced nasolabial folds described by Veraguth as indicative of melancholia. Relationships between depression and art also play a role in certain theories of creativity, such as that of Silverman, who postulates that in the depressive phase new impressions arise which then find their expression in a manic phase. Finally, there are the various creative therapies designed in cases of depression (e.g. by encouraging the patient to paint or draw) to reactivate the nondominant hemisphere of the brain. Particularly in chronic or recurrent depressions this reactivation also serves to open up to the patient new perspectives for the solution of the problems that drive him into depression.
Well, not that I’m suicidal (God-forbid, no) but sometimes I feel like I need some outlet to release all these “stored” energy. That’s why I rip clothes once in a while, I blog, I write things on my planner, I draw caricatures during class (even if my drawings are nothing to be proud of), I buy jigsaw puzzles, I take amateur pictures, and I color stuff. It feels good to un-cap my bottled up thoughts once in a while.