This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Aidan Moesby asks how do they get away with this 'quality journalism'? / 14 February 2011

Screenprint of Touch!

You put the Ouch! in Touch. Screenprint © ajmoesby

Zoom in to this image and read text description

Apples and Snakes posted a Facebook link to an article by Alex Hudson on BBC News entitled 'The Creative Process and Mental Illness'. The basic tenet is that mad equals creative.

I really don't like these catch all assumptions and wrote the following brief retort. Is this really balanced and considered?

Spare me from 'cheap journalism' that uses the link of madness and creativity/poetry These kind of articles peddle the usual stereotypical visions of the mad creative. Over diagnosing, reframing things like shyness into social anxiety disor...der - so it can be pathologised, medicalised and medicated increases the number with 'diagnosis' and the 'Big Pharma' profits.

In other words, poets are 20 times more likely to end up in an asylum than the general population.' what tosh. The so called asylums are not full of poets - stats can show anyone anything. If you look at a copy of Diagnostic & Statistical Manual DSM (iv) everyone could be diagnosed with a disorder.

These kind of articles do nothing at all for those with enduring mental health issues but perpetuate ridiculous myths and oh - what about those with mental health issues who aren't creative - Doubly Damned and unfortunate?What do you think?

Keywords: mad creative,mental health,mental health myth,stereotype,stigma,


Colin Hambrook

24 February 2011

The myth of the mad creative genius is ever a trap. It comes from those romantic notions about rarefied artists on the road to 'spiritual' enlightenment. Antonin Artaud is someone else I would recommend to read on this subject. As well as his tirades against psychiatry as a tool of social control, he also wrote about the perverse myths about 'spirituality' - used as a vehicle for oppression. It was unfortunate that much of the work of RD Laing and others from the anti-psychiatry movement in the 1960s, went on to support myths about the mad, creative genius. Mad equals creative is a myth that is ripe for subversion. Few have challenged it. The work of most liberal thinkers and social reformers has only reinforced it.

Dolly Sen

17 February 2011

I met more accountants than artists in psych wards, but I have yet to see a study seeking to find any correlation in that. It is a stereotype, but it is a stereotype I inhabit, sometimes happily, sometimes painfully.


15 February 2011

Interesting that it would seem sometimes that nearly everyone would like to write a novel, but I've never noticed mental illness and revilement being such objects of desire.

Colin Hambrook

15 February 2011

Susan Sontag's excellent essay Illness as a Metaphor - first published in 1979 - examines the history of perceptions of tubercolosis and cancer, looking at texts throughout the 19th and 20th centuries which illustrate unhelpful mythologies. In the process of uncovering and comparing myths about illness, she has this to say in comparing the 19th century romantic notions that then surrounded TB which myths she argues have been transferred to madness: "The object of distortion is not, of course, cancer - a disease which nobody has managed to glamorise... In the twentieth century the repellent, harrowing disease that is made the index of a superior sensitivity, the vehicle of 'spiritual' feelings and 'critical' discontent, is insanity." I think Alex Hudson would do well to read Sontag. Her premise about these myths and the way they support unhelpful notions is as pertinent today as ever.

Add a comment

Please leave your comments. They will display when submitted. DAO encourages critical feedback, but please be considerate. DAO reserves the right to edit or remove comments that don't comply with our editorial policy, which you can find on DAOs 'About' pages.

Your e-mail address will not be revealed to the public.
HTML is forbidden, but line-breaks will be retained.
This can be a URL of an image or a YouTube, MySpaceTV or a Flickr page (we'll handle the media embedding from there!)
This is to prevent automatic submissions.