Creatives Make a Stand Against Depression

Creatives Make a Stand Against Depression

It is not a coincidence that so many creative types suffer from depression. It seems elemental to the process of creativity that one must suffer internally to give life to art completely unique and beautiful. According to a 2008 CDC study, it's estimated that one in ten people suffer from some form of depression; however, the connection is thought to be stronger in those of us that create for a living. Evidence suggests that creative types are more susceptible to the life-flattening effects of depression. One photographer wants you to know you are not alone in your struggles.

Creatives Aga;nst Depression is fast on a mission to erase the stigma behind depression and suicidal thoughts. Spearheaded by Photographer Jose Rosado, CAD has created a community of individuals who suffer from the debilitating effects of depression in their everyday lives. "Creatives, by and large, are hit by depression harder than most," explains Rosado. "With a lot of our self worth attached to our art, it's not surprising that the harsh ups and downs of being self-employed affect us so much." The life of a freelance artist is riddled with feast and famine. The relationship between success and suffering can be too difficult to distinguish at times; the swings alone are enough to drive anyone insane. Many of us are unable to separate our business from our personal lives. We are consumed by our profession, vacantly nodding through a conversation with a loved one while we internally agonize over a project we're working on.

Image courtesy of CAD.

I used to beat myself up over failed relationships: "you're selfish, your work is more important than this relationship" would be common accusations. In turn, these distinctions would drive me deeper into my head, creating more negative energy — a downward spiral gaining momentum. Many suffer from self doubt associated directly with their work. Some of the most talented people I know will never understand their own abilities because of the effects of depression. So much of what we do relies on the approval of the public. In today's digital age, we post our work immediately in front of the masses on Instagram, Facebook, and blogs. We grovel at the public's feet with our latest creations. A sheepish offering: "what do you think of me now, world?" — the all too familiar dance with self-loathing and dark thoughts wrought with over thinking and negativity, another downward spiral.

As both creatives and business owners, we all want to put our best foot forward for our potential clients. We fear the risk of rejection for our brand. Creatives Aga;nst Depression understands what you're going through in your business. Their first hand knowledge allows room for understanding and space for a refreshing candor. So many suffer from ranging levels of depression, hiding our struggles merely sweeps the issue under the rug. CAD strives to shed light on the issue with the hopes that suffering together will be easier than suffering alone. Creatives Aga;nst Depression encourages depression victims to share and communicate with others as the backbone of how to overcome their ailment. "Just think of how many musicians, actors, artists, and creatives take their lives every year due to illness and depression;" questions Rosado. "There’s millions more who suffer in silence and darkness. Let’s help them realize that it’s OK to talk about it and it’s OK to ask for help." CAD seeks to bridge the gap in communication, encouraging people who suffer to reach out and talk about their depression before it is too late.

Creatives Aga;nst Depression is a wealth of information and support. Their blog is a great resource for publications and testimonials that can serve as a lifeline from the throws of self-hatred. Part anecdotal encouragement and part scientific evidence, the literature on CAD's blog provides healthy support for beating depression. Beyond just optimistic copywriting, CAD offers a third party support line for those who might need immediate help. The hotline is intended to be a continuation of support that CAD offers, an outside lifeline for those deep in the aguish of negative thoughts. 

The most important thing to remember is that many people, particularly in our field, deal with depression. To be a gifted creative is to naturally think more and then think more about those thoughts. We travel deeper into our heads, making connections in all the small details and emerging with something inspired, true, and unique. The process of entering deep within ourselves is dangerous; it is here we enter into depression. The pain and suffering is immense, though sometimes short-lived. To some of us, the pain is played on a loop as we continue to think and rethink and overthink our feelings — an inescapable mental cycle. As creatives, we naturally rethink events to better understand them; it is important that we eliminate the negativity and continue the creative process.

Image courtesy of CAD.

According to Shelly Carson, there is a positive correlation between depression and the creative process. Carson debates that true creativity emerges from escape from depression. The very act of lifting out of a depressive state lends way to some of the more positively inspired work. Taking this theory in conjunction with the support network of CAD means you have a formula for harnessing the creative abilities within. CAD is "just one photographer doing what he can to make a small dent in a huge issue," describes Founder Jose Rosado. With the hopes of continued growth and impact on a global issue, CAD seeks an increased understanding of the relationship between depression and creativity. As individuals and creatives, it is important to reflect on how you work and what will allow you to produce better work. Understanding the pitfalls and the land mines of depression that can consume you in an instant is paramount to furthering success. Equally, respecting the natural flow of your mind and how your brain and body operate will allow you to live a more whole and healthy life.

[via CAD]

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29 Comments
Paul Gana's picture

I know exactly how this is. At this point when it comes to relationships, I don't even try anymore, between my passions as a photographer and my "mental state", relationships have actually dragged me down. Plus too many people tell alot of us artists to get a "real job" which doesn't help any neither. Currently my mood swings have even affected my photography and motivation to keep going with it. I do have a list of reasons to continue hanging on a wall next to me. Question I have is to be a successful photographer you still have to be a people person and a go-getter, how do you get around the deep seated depression which doesn't just get willed away and become that people loving go-getter with an awesome super positive attitude?
FYI I will be checking out that new website Creatives Against Depression

Jose Rosado's picture

Paul, thank you for commenting and sharing some of your story. Don't ever think you have to be one personality type or another to 'make it' as a photographer. Cater to your strengths and seek out others to help you with the stuff you struggle with. Delegation is key so you don't feel so scattered all the time.

Definitely check out the site and let us know what you think! Thanks!

Deleted Account's picture

Don't ever listen to the people that tell you to "get a real job" and resist the pressure to pick a role that conforms to petite bourgeoisie lifestyle if it goes against your heart and conscience.

The arts will often lead to success through failure. That doesn't mean that everybody that sets out to be a photographer is going to make it. Most of us will fail. It means that you will learn something by pursuing photography that will lead to success in another field entirely. Often, the skills that you learn in the arts will apply to the straight business world in ways that you've never considered, and will give you an advantage. In the end, you have nothing to lose by pursuing the arts because even if you fail to make it as a creative you will still be able to carry those skills over to another vocation.

There are no paths in life. The only thing that stays the same is morality. Take whatever path you want, but make certain to be as moral as possible along the way. Since there are no paths, there are also no mistakes. The only mistake you can make is to do something immoral or to go against your own conscience. The people that think there are paths in life are always proven wrong in the end (God laughs when men make plans) so resist the temptation to listen to them.

Jose Rosado's picture

Mike, well said! I always agreed with that mentality. Go with the flow of life — if it means getting a part-time job over the slow months do it, so that you can continue to stay motivated with your art and not stressed for not being able to make a living off of it for a whole entire career.

Like you said, everything you do will directly have an impact on whatever the next thing you do is, which is really important to remember. Thanks for commenting!

Deleted Account's picture

Thanks Jose

Owain Shaw's picture

Mike, your post reminded me of something I read recently from author Kurt Vonnegut, about getting into the arts regardless of their career potential, but because of what the arts mean to those who practice them ...

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding.
The arts are not a way to make a living.
They are a very human way of making life more bearable.
Practicing art no matter how well or badly,
is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.
Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories.
Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem.
Do it as well as you possibly can.
You will get an enormous reward.
You will have created something.”
- Kurt Vonnegut.

Deleted Account's picture

Thanks for the heads up on the Vonnegut quotes. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Owain Shaw's picture

You're welcome. I read it recently and also shared it with a student who comes to my photography workshop in the secondary school where I work ... she had no prior interest in photography and I've had to lend her a film camera, but she still comes twice a week which is wonderful. I often wonder why she comes as her interest in photography still seems pretty limited but this quote kind of answers it ... the arts are being fairly systematically cut from education here, and that workshop is probably her only time to explore the creativity we all have inside.

Jacques Cornell's picture

It doesn't help that people and companies are constantly telling us "We like your work enough to use it, but not enough to pay you for it. Tell ya what, give us unlimited use and we'll mention your name." I'm looking at you, CBS.

Jose Rosado's picture

Good point, Jacques — I'm actually working on an article about that very topic called 'Blowing The Whistle on Social Media Branding + Exposure' blowing the lid off similar tactics by many Fortune 500 companies today all for the sake of a better social media following.

Jacques Cornell's picture

Can't wait to read it!

james johnson's picture

Creative work is always riddled with self doubt, but it is particularly difficult because the whole world is in the midst of changing its relationship with images and other creative content. Everything is in flux. We are all going through it. And, remember, no matter how good someone else' life looks in the media (instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube), everyone has bad times too... they just don't post that part.

Jose Rosado's picture

Agreed — people need to take their feeds a lot less serious because everyone knows it's a sham. They're fooling no one.

bob Farrell's picture

"Creatives, by and large, are hit by depression harder than most...." What a fatuous piece of unproven nonsense. Try telling that to the families of depression sufferers (creatives and otherwise) who are impacted by suicide and self harm daily.

While this action of solidarity is a lovely idea, we need to broaden the scope to include ALL those (of us) who suffer - both directly and indirectly.

Let's use our creative talents to help normalize how depression is perceived. Only when people understand that depression is on a broad spectrum of mental ill-health and should be viewed no differently than any other illness, will we truly lessen the stigma associated with it. Because it is the stigma and the products of it - both perceived and self-imposed - that makes us feel alone and unsupported.

Sell your work, give the proceeds to mental health charities; talk about your illness. Fight ignorance with creativity. That is how we will ultimately tell other sufferers that we are not alone.

Jose Rosado's picture

Bob — what you're asking for is exactly what our intention is. Get a larger conversation going with the overall issue of mental health in our global society. Like you said, are creatives the ONLY people who suffer from this horrible illness + condition? No, of course not.

But are we statistically more prone to struggling with it? Yes, that is true. Yet, it's what we do with that fact that you so gracefully eluded to: 'Let's use our creative talents to help normalize how depression is perceived. Only when people understand that depression is on a broad spectrum of mental ill-health and should be viewed no differently than any other illness, will we truly lessen the stigma associated with it.' <-- This is exactly what we aim to do through articles, blog posts, photo series, and any type of helpful medium we can to achieve more awareness around a subject that has been kept in the dark for WAY too long.

Thank you.

bob Farrell's picture

Jose - I am based in the UK and fight daily for mental health to be taken seriously in the workplace and outside of it. In myself, I fight the black dog daily.

Photography helps me clear my mind. I am not a good photographer and I certainly do not call myself a creative. But the creative process helps. It's a bit Zen and a bit of mindfulness. It works for me - in terms of helping me cope. It inspires others and helps them create works that are simply outstanding. It doesn't work for others.

But my point - my written/verbal meandering notwithstanding - is that us sufferers need to engage more, educate. If we can do that through out art, through conversations where art was the catalyst, then brilliant. Do it. Speak out.

We can't necessarily do that if we're targeting photographers with depression (forgive the over simplification - but I hope you get my point). That's a small demographic.

Jose Rosado's picture

Well here's the thing, I wholeheartedly agree. So what I am going to end with is this challenge: Will you then come help me with Creatives Against Depression, in figuring out ways we can reach the broader demo of depression sufferers in UK to do the best job we can to raise awareness about a global issue? I have some ideas but need your help.

If yes, email me: info@creativesagainstdepression.com

I hope to hear from you, have a great weekend.

Jose Rosado's picture

Bob — what you're asking for is exactly what our intention is. Get a larger conversation going with the overall issue of mental health in our global society. Like you said, are creatives the ONLY people who suffer from this horrible illness + condition? No, of course not.

But are we statistically more prone to struggling with it? Yes, that is true. Yet, it's what we do with that fact that you so gracefully eluded to: 'Let's use our creative talents to help normalize how depression is perceived. Only when people understand that depression is on a broad spectrum of mental ill-health and should be viewed no differently than any other illness, will we truly lessen the stigma associated with it.' <-- This is exactly what we aim to do through articles, blog posts, photo series, and any type of helpful medium we can to achieve more awareness around a subject that has been kept in the dark for WAY too long.

Thank you.

Anonymous's picture

SO glad this is being talked about. Its something that I have struggled with and overcome (to an extent) in the past, I've probably suffered since I was a child on and off due to severe medical illness, it was only really noticed by an ex about 20years ago and that made me seek help.

But do still slip from time to time. I know many others (photographers) that also struggle with depression and yet, (especially from a male pov) its barely ever spoken of and quite often it draws *gasps* when I openly speak about it which I quite often do on Twitter.

I've been a professional photographer for 10years now, last 2-3 I have been freelance which sometimes makes me slip, although I've also found it a bit easier to deal with than being a contracted photographer with an employer because I'm master of my own time... lots of pressure, lots of self doubt and stress does still come though. However, through various techniques i've found that help me its been managable.

Will be trumpeting your blog and this article as much as I can.

Jose Rosado's picture

Thank you, James for sharing your story as well! It's something that is unfortunately a very common story amongst us photographers + creatives in general.

Thank you so much for sharing what Creatives Against Depression is trying to do, if you're ever looking to help with blogging or writing articles let me know!

Anna Dabrowska's picture

Good read! Thanks!

Jose Rosado's picture

Thanks Anna, Jason did a great job!

Jason Teale's picture

I am really happy to see this. After losing my best friend and mentor to cancer in December, I have been struggling to come to terms with the emotions associated with the loss. It's been tough losing the one person who got me started into photography and kept me going though some of those doubt-filled times. Glad to see that there is a community out there to provide support. I will check the site asap

Jose Rosado's picture

Jason — I'm so sorry for your loss, and thank you for sharing your story. Always remember there's always groups to help you get through those tough times especially when grieving a loss (there's tons of grieving support groups as well) of a loved one.

Be sure to let us know what you think of the site and if you'd like to help out in any way.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Thanks for sharing this. I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder; I am no stranger to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It makes trying to start and maintain a business seem impossible to me and most of the time I just feel like I'll never get anywhere.

It's nice to find out that there are others in my field who can relate and are offering help.

Jose Rosado's picture

Dan — thanks so much for sharing your story, I know it's not easy. I'd love to chat with you about writing for the blog + sharing your story as a way of helping others who fight the same battles.

Reach out via info@creativesagainstdepression.com if you're interested and let's chat.

Owain Shaw's picture

Thanks for sharing this initiative, and thanks to Jose for starting it. I read through the blog posts and several sections of different posts struck a chord.

To share a little ... although I write this now having already typed quite a lot: I've suffered periodically from depression since I was a teenager, and now close to 30, I'm receiving therapy. I regret not seeing someone sooner, as after about six months of treatment I'm starting to see myself in a better light; starting to treat myself better and starting to believe the nice things people have always told me.

My photography has often been linked to my feelings of depression - as many of us are I have been very critical of my own work starting when I was still at school and charged with curating our final exhibition; I chose not to include my own work and went as far as destroying it to prevent my teachers from overruling my decision based on my work being 'devoid of meaning' - a recurring criticism throughout the years. (As I've slowly moved away from Photography as a profession and therefore my primary reference of self-worth, I learned to become self-destructive about pretty much everything else I did.)

Recently though, I've done a couple of personal projects, one of which was definitely a method of coping with the end of a long-term relationship; the other, my therapist believes reflects my mood at the time with strong, dark blacks and occasional whites - also the aesthetic for the first piece of work. Incidentally, since I've started feeling better about myself I've returned to colour and rather than an intense, contrasted look, a softer and lighter palette ... no projects as such though. I write this paragraph because of what was written about the creative process and depression, that going deep, perhaps too deep, into ourselves is where our work stems from. That was certainly the case with my first project ... and on a less reflective level with the second one, which was a case of the inner self working subconsciously in my creativity.

Jose Rosado's picture

Owain — thanks so much for sharing your story as well, I know it's not easy for anyone. I'd love to chat with you about writing for the blog + sharing your story as a way of helping others who fight the same battles.

Reach out via info@creativesagainstdepression.com if you're interested and let's chat.

Nata Herman's picture

Yes, I think creative people are more prone to depression.