Painting on Prozac

I was very interested in Jennifer’s proposal to examine mental illness in art, particularly depression and how treatments like SSRIs can affect creativity and artistic output. There is a huge link between mental illness and art. Some of the most well known artists, from Jackson Pollock to Paul Gauguin to Joan Miro, were said to suffer from depression (“Artists and Depression”, “Miro Offers Case in Point of Creativity’s Link to Depression”). While it is unclear what the causal relationship is between depression and creativity, there does seem to be a connection between the two. Something that can give us a clue is how creativity is affected by the treatment of depression, particularly with SSRIs. SSRIs have become widespread since the release of Prozac in the 80s. While SSRIs are able to provide relief from the crushing symptoms of depression, many people in creative professions have found that taking Prozac decreases their creativity (Preston). Based on these accounts of losing artistic abilities while taking anti-depressants, its easy to see why people would choose to forgo treatment in order to continue with their art.

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(Source: Paul Gauguin)

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(Source: Joan Miro)

Art and creativity also play a role in certain kinds of treatments for depression and other mental disorders. Art therapies are used in treatment of almost everything, from depression to PTSD to aging.

Art can also carry a message about depression. In many communities there is a huge stigma surrounding depression, particularly for men. The South African photographer Tsoku Maela drew on his experience battling depression and anxiety to create a series of photographs that illustrate his experience. Maela hopes that others will see that depression isn’t just something that affects white communities, but reaches into African communities around the globe (McMillan)

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(Source: Hyperallergic)

I’m very interested to see where Jennifer’s investigation of these topics takes her for this final project.



“Artists and Depression: The Link Between Depression and Creativity” The Ranch. February 25, 2017

McMillan, Kyla “An Artist Photographs His Depression to Destigmatize Mental Illness” Hyperallergic July 6, 2016

“Miro Offers Case in Point of Creativity’s Link to Depression” New York Times, October 24, 1993

Preston, Alex “Does Prozac help artists be creative?” The Guardian May 19, 2013

“Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)” Science Museum.