The exploration of the link between mental health conditions and creativity or genius is nothing new. Books such as Touched with Fire by Kay Redfield Jameson, as well as A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasr, grapple with this complex subject. The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius, a new book by psychiatrist Gail Paltz, provides another dimension to this conversation, one that will be of particular interest to parents and educators, as it encourages them to look for and encourage the strengths in children that have “different abilities.
While not denying the very real challenges that children and adults with mental health conditions and learning disabilities face, Saltz’ book makes an important contribution to helping to remove the stigma associated with these conditions.
In a CNN.com story about the book, Saltz says, “Our default, as a society and even for parents whose child has learning difficulties or mental health disorders, is to focus on the weakness. We’re very invested in fixing, and we tend to be focused on the negative, whatever the negative is. Make it better so everything is good. It’s an understandable means of reacting, but it becomes so embedded, and it’s not really the best path.”
Saltz believes that for those supporting or working with children and adults with psychiatric or learning disabilities, 20% of time should be spent focusing on challenges and 80% on exploring and enhancing strengths.
Resources for further exploration:
- Read an excerpt from The Power of Different here.
- A Closer Look at Mental Illness’ Link to Creativity (The Huffington Post)
- Where Do Mental Illness And Creativity Meet? (TED Radio Hour, NPR)
- The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness (Scientific American)
- How Yayoi Kusama, the ‘Infinity Mirrors’ visionary, channels mental illness into art (The Washington Post)