"Men Who Turned Mental Turmoil into Artistic Triumphs: Battling Stigma Through History"

  • Oct 31, 2023
When we talk about mental health an area that generally does not get enough coverage and importance is mental health in Men. They are often expected to be strong, unwavering pillars of support for others, which might deter them from getting the mental health care they need. If males confess to having depression or other mental health problems, they could worry about being stigmatized or viewed as less manly.
Through time and history we have seen many great men who despite suffering from mental health issues have also achieved success in their respective fields . some while they were alive and some after their time. Van Gogh is a classic example of a great creative mind and artist whose work sells for millions now. His art came out of great mental turbulence and poor mental health. There have been many creative and brilliant minds among men who have, despite their mental health issues, been pioneers of great work. John Nash is also another great example who made contributions in Mathematics and was also awarded the Nobel Memorial prize, John von Neumann theory prize etc. His struggles with schizophrenia and his recovery was made into an Oscar winning movie named Beautiful Minds.

Now let us take a deeper look into living with schizophrenia and it’s gender based stigma to have a better understanding:
Understanding the various elements that impact stigma in schizophrenia is crucial for effective treatment of the condition. Men with schizophrenia said they were single, that they concealed their condition from others and on job applications, and that they felt ashamed and ridiculed. They stated that the worst venues for them to suffer stigma were their places of employment. Women talked about how stigma affected their marriages, pregnancies, and deliveries. Both sexes disclosed certain cultural misconceptions regarding their illnesses and the detrimental effects they had on their lives.

Men are more likely than women to develop schizophrenia, and they also tend to do so at a younger age—men typically get schizophrenia five years younger than women. Recent evidence suggests that genetic and biochemical factors associated with psychoses may also provide an increased propensity to think creatively.

For as long as people have been writing things down, psychoses and creativity have been associated. Using mostly biographical and historical documents together with interviews, has shown more recently that there is a connection between mood problems and artistic creativity. These studies have a few drawbacks while providing strong data and an intriguing look into the family history of creative people. Firstly, while historical studies offer valuable motivation to explore the relationship between psychoses and creativity, they only focus on prominent figures from history, leaving out those who managed to elude the scrutiny of mainstream written records.  Though there has long been a theory linking creativity with psychopathology, empirical research on this relationship did not start until the last century. 

Another example is Franz Kafka who wrote in a completely original style exploring existential ideas about life. The Trial and Metamorphosis are two of his better known stories. Kafka was a loner, a genius, who suffered from social anxiety and depression. In the honour of Franz Kafka, the Franz Kafka price was presented as an international literary award. 

To conclude he proves to be another classic example of how men who faced mental illness have worked through their challenges and societal stigma to still go ahead and carve a niche for themselves in their respective fields.  This gives us some perspective on how men have dealt with the issue of mental illness through history and time.

Contributed by Pavitra V.S, Grade 11 - EuroSchool HSR
She actively engages in animal rescuing and her interests include reading, crochet and kickboxing.
Carpediem would like to acknowledge the use of photo by msandersmusic on Pixabay

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