Mental Illness: New Study Explores Link with Creativity; NAMI Events include Music, Drama and other Arts

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Study finds uninhibited processing in the brain allows creative people to think “outside the box.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is focusing on films, music and other creative arts this week—at the same time a new scientific study has found a possible explanation for the link between mental illness and uninhibited processing in the brain that allows creative people to think “outside the box.”

In an article on “Beautiful Minds: Creativity and Mental Illness” appearing in the latest issue of NAMI’s Advocate e-magazine highlights a Swedish study and other research that explores a potential link between schizophrenia and artistic tendencies.

The Swedish study shows that highly creative people have a lower density of dopamine receptors in the thalamus, according to Dr. Fredrik Ullénthan, the lead researcher. People living with schizophrenia also have been found to have low dopamine density in that part of the brain. Other studies have shown that a genetic difference may be shared by creative people and those with psychotic symptoms.

In NAMI's weekly blog, NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick also discusses creativity as a “powerful” means for education about mental illness. In fact, “creativity is required by anyone whose life is touched by mental illness,” whether in education, support or recovery.

The 2010 NAMI Convention opening this week in Washington, D.C. includes many artistic elements, including a performance by Grammy-award-winning singer Susan McKeown. On Friday evening, award-winning poet and songwriter Michael Mack
will perform portions of Speaking in Tongues, about his mother’s life with schizophrenia.

The Free at Last Players, a theatre troupe now in their 20th year, will speak openly in skits and songs about their experiences with mental illness and different forms of stigma and exclusion.

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month also begins this week and the NAMI Advocate “Bookshelf” feature recommends reading the newly-published novel Try to Remember by Iris Gomez as “a wonderful way” to observe it. Set in Miami in the 1970s, the book portrays a family’s struggle with mental illness from a Latino perspective. Their teenage holds them together in the face of her father’s battle with schizophrenia.. Fewer than one in 20 Latino immigrants with mental illness ever get help.

About NAMI
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy.


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Christine Armstrong
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