Artists and Mental Health
Windsong Foundation recognizes the plight of the Artist. We welcome out-of-box creativity that is often birthed out of neurodiversity. WSF advocates for affordable therapy. Many Artists are balancing family and work, financial stress, addiction, relational strife, loneliness, grief, mood disorders, and other common life distresses. Read more below to learn more about how Artists and mental health collide.*
* The psychoeducation available on this page is not a substitute for therapy, is not created by a licensed therapist (pre-licensed and reviewed by licensed therapists), and is meant to provide a resource for those seeking more information regarding the connection between creativity and mental illness/suffering. Call 911 if you feel you are having mental health struggles, and if it is not an emergency and still urgent, please TEXT 988.
Research has consistently shown that artists suffer from mood disorders like depression at significantly higher rates than the general population. A large study examining over 1,000 working artists found that depression is nearly twice as common among musicians, writers, and visual artists compared to non-artists (Johnson et al., 2012; Taylor, 2017).
Other studies analyzing biographical information indicate that Bipolar Disorder has affected many renowned creative figures, including poets like John Berryman and Robert Lowell, artists like Vincent van Gogh, and composers like Robert Schumann (Goodwin & Jamison, 2007).
Multiple biographical analyses have documented high rates of mood disturbances among individuals with major creative achievements. The scientific literature strongly suggests that affective disorders are more prevalent among artistic populations (Johnson et al., 2012; Taylor, 2017).
A popular perception exists of the artistic temperament linked to alcohol and drug misuse. But does scientific evidence support elevated addiction issues among creative communities? Extensive research suggests the answer is yes.
Studies consistently demonstrate that creative occupations have markedly higher rates of substance abuse disorders than general populations. Rates of alcohol dependence among poets and writers are estimated to be up to 4 times higher than non-artists (Johnson et al., 2003).
Over 50% of jazz musicians suffered from drug or alcohol addiction in one study (Wills, 2009). Use of psychoactive substances to presumably stimulate creativity was noted among over 60% of authors, playwrights, and poets in another sample (Kaufman, 2001).
Some posit that substance abuse provides inspiration or disinhibition to activate creative thought. Others suggest neurological traits that enable creativity also convey addiction vulnerability. More research is needed to elucidate the complex connections between artistic talent and addiction.
However, the existing data indicates that substance abuse disorders represent an elevated occupational hazard among artistic communities. Unraveling the roots of this propensity and providing appropriate support services must be priorities in promoting creativity and wellness.
The allure of life on tour often conceals a darker reality behind the flashing lights. While musicians may seem the epitome of living out their passions, studies reveal elevated rates of suicide among touring artists and bands.
Research indicates that touring musicians face a suicide risk of up to seven times higher than the general population (Kauffman, 2010). For every 100,000 touring musicians, approximately 22 will die by suicide annually, based on current data. This dwarfs the annual suicide rate of approximately 13 per 100,000 people among the overall public (Herbert, 2022).
Unfortunately, Windsong Founders Kelli and Aaron have been impacted by suicidality within the creative community. Kelli returned to school to study how to treat the Artists as a special population. She has found an incredible resource for suicidality. If you or a creative you know needs help overcoming desperate thoughts, please reach out and watch this video. The video explains how suicide is not always about death.
mental health director
Our mental health team is growing as we create a culture of vulnerability that cares for artists. Windsong currently does not offer therapy but are a resource for Artists and their families.