This does ring true to some, where creativity becomes an outlet for designers and artists to produce deep and meaningful work.

However, this stereotype overlooks the genuine need for mental health support within creative industries. The idea that poor mental health and artistic temperament go hand-in-hand has always been understood as normal. From figures such as Kanye West and Virginia Woolf, many people are familiar with famous artists who have reportedly struggled with mental illness. 

According to Serufe Investments, a recent white paper by the Wits / Medical Research Council, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit (DPHRU), reveals that 25.7% of South Africans are most likely depressed, with more than a quarter of respondents reporting moderate to severe symptoms of depression. Some research-based estimates show that as many as one-quarter of South African employees will be diagnosed with depression during their employment.

However, only between 15% and 25% will seek and receive professional help. Mental disorders in the workplace result in massive amounts of lost productivity each year, and it is estimated that employee absenteeism on account of depression costs the South African economy approximately R19-billion annually.

According to a recent study conducted in Sweden, creative professionals were more likely to experience bipolar disorder. It was also found that writers were noted to be more vulnerable to mental health disorders than other creative professionals, such as performers, musicians and the general population.

Serafue Investments says this is a staggering revelation for people in the advertising and public relations fields, as these sectors predominantly employ creatives such as writers. It is typical for people in this line of work to experience high pressure with tight deadlines and long work hours.

Like many other professions, working in the creative industry has its problems. Some everyday struggles include:
  • substance abuse
  • creative block, which may lead to self-doubt and depression or anxiety disorders
  • inconsistent or unpredictable work and income
  • self-doubt and variable levels of success
  • lower income than other professions, and
  • the stigma surrounding mental illness and the creative arts.

Mental health professionals suggest that employers and company leadership should adopt a proactive approach when managing creative employees with mental health issues in the workplace.

Here are five ways organisations can help:
  1. Educate employees on depression and how cognitive symptoms affect work performance.
  2. Raise awareness of any existing employee assistance programmes and emphasise that they can help with mental health problems, like depression.
  3. Promote a culture of acceptance around depression and other psychiatric disorders; they are no different from diabetes or asthma.
  4. If an employee shares their struggle with depression, refer them to a mental healthcare professional and reassure them the illness can be treated.
  5. Explore creative ways to support an employee's recovery, like flexible / adjusted working hours or working from home for a while.

The pressures of the creative industries run high, and comparison frequently results in rejections or failure. Creative industry jobs are often pursued by passion and doing a job you love. However, the uncertainty that comes with this adds to the increased distress. Creativity is closely linked to psychology and the understanding of people; in this case, it comes in handy to help improve the mental health of those in the creative industries. 

The company concludes that using psychology and psychotherapy treatments in this sector could be highly beneficial. Personality types in the industry are often self-aware and in touch with their emotions. Creating healthy work environments has the potential to reduce the mental struggles associated with creative work significantly.

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