from the It-brings-on-many-changes. dept.
Shiela M. Elred writes at Discovery News that it's clear that some artistic professions are more at risk of suicide including writers, actors and painters. The suicide rate of musicians is about three times the national average, according to work by Steve Stack, director of the Center for Suicide Research and a professor at Wayne State University, whose research on occupation and suicide is the most comprehensive to date, covering a period of eight years of death certificates that list occupation. Kurt Cobain's case seems to be a classic representation of struggles that disproportionately affect artists and in Cobain's case were several red flags that Nirvana's lead singer was suicidal: a family history of suicide, bipolar disorder and drug addiction. In Cobain's case 5000 fans listened to a tape recording of Courtney Love reading the suicide note, and calling Kurt various foul names for killing himself. There has been speculation that Love's negative and angry reaction to her husband's death may have prevented copycat suicides among his fans. "There's definitely a known connection between creativity and mental illness," says Dr. Christine Moutier adding that over 90 percent of people who commit suicide had a mental illness, whether it be active or under-treated or undiagnosed.
According to Moutier many artists and people who commit suicide share character traits such as perfectionism. Common pathways in the brain lead people to both be more creative and experience mood and behavior patterns outside the norm. And real life for artists can be especially challenging says Steve Stack, director of the Center for Suicide Research. "As an occupational group, artists are more likely than others to experience labor market strains. These strains include unemployment, underemployment, client dependency (in a quest after gigs/contracts), multiple job holding and low incomes. Some work at menial jobs by day and do art at night." Combined with the higher rates of mental disorders such as manic depression and bipolar disorders, lives of artists are often volatile. "It's not to say you should squelch creativity" says Moutier, "but I do think family support of young adults excited about artistic endeavors is important."