There’s been a lot of discussion around destigmatizing mental illness, but not quite as much about how we occasionally tend to romanticize it.
Stick with us: There's a widely held belief that creativity and genius is often linked—and fueled—by madness. Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway are just a couple of examples that come to mind. As superstar author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska) recently explained at a NerdCon conference:
"If you google the phrase ‘all artists are,’ the first suggestion is ‘mad.’ We hear that genius is next to insanity; we see Carrie Mathison on Homeland going off her meds so that she can discover the identity of the terrorists and save America."
Green, who struggles with mental health issues himself, continued to discuss just how unhealthy that notion is, and how even someone with his level of success (we’re talking an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author here) can still fall victim to it:
"I went off my medication to try to write a novel, because I bought into the dangerous romantic lie. I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but yeah. I hadn’t written a book in years, and I felt desperate to write something. I blamed my medication, so I decided that to write, I would go off of it… Here is what I wrote during the collapse of last year: Nothing that made sense.
…So I want to say that, yes, I am mentally ill. I’m not embarrassed about it. And I have written my best work not when flirting with the brink, but when treating my chronic health problem with consistency and care."
He further emphasized that “getting help—although it is hard and exhausting and inexcusably difficult to access—will not make you less of an artist.” And that’s a message we don’t mind spreading.