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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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!

user-88324'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!

user-88324's picture

Thanks Jose

user-88324's picture

Hi Pete,

The reason I'm saying that there are "no paths in life" is because a path is something that is outside of a person. It exists in the environment and is mostly beyond a person's direct control. For example, one of the paths that we judge ourselves by might be to do well in school, go to college for STEM, get married at 23, get a good job at a corporation, buy a house in the suburbs etc....This is a formula or path for living. But most of that formula is actually outside of a person's control. What if the housing market is collapsing (like in 2008)? What if foreign workers are being brought in on H1B visas so that the corporations can avoid paying American workers? What if you're too broke to date when you're young so it becomes difficult to find a woman to marry? What if you couldn't go to a competitive school because it was too expensive and then had to settle for a mickey mouse party school that was cheaper and this lead to less competitive resume? What if your high school education was in the ghetto and so you were never prepared for college in the first place? The point of bringing these things up is that what looks like a path or a formula to life turns out to not be so much of a formula after all. There are all kinds of unknowns that are going to pop up for each individual in his particular life so that two people that are attempting to take the same path to the same goal will find that neither one of their paths looks the same and that effects what goal might be able to be achieved or not.

It's this idea of a path in life that leads many people to believe that they are failures etc. But most of what they lament are actually factors that are outside of their control in the first place. Similarly, many "successful" people became that way because of environmental factors that just happened to work for them instead of against them (yet they rarely give this much credit and instead like to believe that they are just superior talents).

Morality is where we can take control of our lives. It's the one thing that we can maintain regardless of the environment that we're living in. Difficult environments make morality more difficult, but moral principles themselves do not change. So many times, a difficult environment can actually shape a person to be even more moral than he would be in a less difficult environment and the bible is filled with examples of this kind.

Pete, you made an excellent point about how creatives often don't know the difference between right and wrong. They often think that "everything is relative" and that leads to a lot of their depression. I totally agree with your observation. That's why I made a point about morality because the root of their depression is often more about moral choices than about their so-called path in life.

Jose Rosado's picture

'Ultimately what I believe most *lomg term* depression comes down to is unreasonable expectations.'

That's a bold claim.

And an interesting one, Jose. I get where you're coming from, I think. Discuss.

Jose Rosado's picture

That's my point — few people realize that depression is a mental health issue not a 'mood' or 'crappy outlook'. If you research the science behind it, there are points shown where a person who's suffering from depression's brain fires differently than 'normal' people. It's more than just perspective, outlook, and life hurdles for most.

user-88324's picture

Good point Jose about how depression is more than just an outlook etc.

But why does a person's brain start to fire differently in the first place? A lot of time, it is a reaction to an event or situation that is outside of their control. That's why I'm making the point that environment matters and there are no "paths in life." People cannot ever have complete control over their environment.

All of the theories about depression tend to focus on the individual that is suffering, but they ignore the situation that created the suffering. This has the effect of making the person feel abnormal when in reality their depression could actually be a healthy response to an unhealthy situation that is completely beyond their control.

Ray Reinhard's picture

@Pete Miller - As one who suffers from bipolar disorder, it is clear to me that you haven't a clue about the nature of clinical depression. If you did, you would never make the highly offensive analogy to "overweight people" who are unable to lose weight (presumably due to lack of will power).

Let me tell you something. When I was in the midst of the worst clinical depression (which is not the same as simply feeling "down"), my whole perception of reality changed. I didn't sleep for an entire month. And that state of mind was so unbearable that, if it had been possible to end it by losing a limb, I gladly would have done so.

Clinical depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. My symptoms are controlled by a combination of anti-depressants and mood stabilizers; if I stop taking my medication, my symptoms return. You may choose to believe that this is simply a "placebo effect." The facts that (1) not all drug combinations worked equally well and (2) this particular combination is the result of many years of experimentation militate against this explanation, however.

Another indication that clinical depression is organically based is the strong evidence of a genetic component. (At least five members of my immediate family suffer from this illness.) Furthermore, there is evidence that bipolar disorder disproportionately affects those who are extremely intelligent and/or highly creative. (I graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy League university, earned a graduate degree from one of the country's top-ranked public universities, and held several high-ranking positions in state government.)

For many years I was in denial about the organic nature of my illness. It's extremely difficult for anyone -- not to mention one who is a very high achiever -- to accept the fact that he or she is mentally ill. But bipolar disorder and clinical depression ARE illnesses that cannot be "cured" simply by changing one's outlook toward life, getting more exercise, or -- as you seem to believe possible -- simply "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps."

user-88324's picture

Thanks for sharing your story Ray. I hope all is going well for you!

It's interesting that you went to an IVY league university because I have always wondered if the struggle for highly intelligent people to be "normal" is really a struggle to get along with dumb average people. For example, would anyone think it is weird for a normal 12 year old to get depressed if he were forced to sit in a kindergarten classroom all day as a student? Nobody would think that was abnormal behavior. But, they tend to think that a person with a high IQ (top 2%) is weird for being trapped with average people all day in a classroom or work environment.

I'm very aware of environmental factors because of growing up as a military dependent. I saw firsthand how people would be perfectly fine on one assignment and then lose control when their environment changed. (Especially in wartime)

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.

user-88324'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!

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.

"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.

@ pete - Are you a scientologist or anti-vaxer or just plain stupid?

Forgive the perceived ad hominem, but your comments are offensive to those who suffer.

And the stigma I speak of? "Mad", "a bit wrong in the head", "Watch out for him, he's unpredictable". Words have power. When mental illness = Mad, you get stigma.

Please, pete. Next time, think before you comment.

Pete may be able to put 2 and 2 together and get 4 but Pete has a very low EQ, this is evident throughout most of his comments on FStoppers. Low EQ people also "often miss when women are coming on to" them.

Once low EQ people are involved in an argument/discussion they will have difficulty conceding any valid point by another member of that discussion even if in their own mid they actually somewhat agreed with another's point.

Low EQ people are invariably the last to reply in a discussion. I expect a reply from Pete to my comment here as an example of this. However, I won't read it.

Oh, Pete, BTW. Did you credit that picture of the Stig you have "borrowed"?

Jose Rosado's picture

No, so in interest of not putting his identity in harms way, the Stig will merely take him out with the swinging rear end of a Jaguar at high-speed. ;)

Pete, your comments about depression clearly show that you have little understanding or knowledge of what it actually is. Keep your comments relevant to the article as the more you comment, the more you are showing your ignorance. Also, I have just a quick look around the comments on this site and you seem to have alot of time on your hands. Perhaps you should go and read a book or get a job.

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.

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:

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.

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