The National Alliance on Mental Illness directed its focus last week on music,
film and additional creative arts -- all while a new scientific study revealed a potential
cause for the connection between mental illness and "uninhibited processing in the brain"
that gives creative people permission to think "outside the box." NAMI is the country's
largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to better the lives of individuals
and families touched by mental illness.
The current issue of NAMI’s online magazine Advocate featured
an article entitled "Beautiful Minds: Creativity and Mental Illness". It shone a light
on a study conducted in Sweden as well as other investigative research that theorized a
probable link between schizophrenia and artistic inclination. The Swedish study, led by
Dr. Fredrik Ullénthan, presented evidence that highly creative individuals were shown to have
a lower concentration of dopamine receptors in the thalamus. Other research showed that
schizophrenics shared the same subdued dopamine or D2-density in the same area. Further
studies have concluded that people who suffer psychotic symptoms and creative people may
share a distinct genetic difference.
Michael Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of NAMI, discussed in the
organization's blog that creativity was a "powerful" means for educating folks on mental
disease or illness. As a matter of fact, "creativity is required by anyone whose life
is touched by mental illness." This is true in cases of rehabilitation, recovery,
support or education.
NAMI just wrapped up a five day convention in Washington, D.C. It
showcased various artistic elements, such as poetry, painting, drama and music. Grammy
winning singer Susan McKeown performed her songs, and award winning poet/songwriter Michael
Mack did parts from "Hearing Voices (Speaking In Tongues)", a lyric portrait of his mother’s
life with schizophrenia and her recovery. Similar sentiments were expressed in drama
and dance by other artists.
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month also began this week.
Try to Remember by Iris Gomez is "a wonderful way" to observe it, according to NAMI's
newsletter. This novel, set in 1970's Miami, depicts a family’s struggle with mental illness
from a Latino perspective. In the book, a teenage girl holds her family together
as the father battles with schizophrenia. Under 1 in 20 Latino immigrants with mental
illness ever get treatment.