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White Tiger by Izzy Bizu

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Izzy Bizu White Tiger
John Green Tyler Oakley

There has been an interesting debate lately about mental health and creativity. 

An idea about the nature of mental health and creativity exists which claims that mental health is often responsible for inexplicable bursts of innovation. 

While many people who have struggled with mental health issues do, indeed, cite their experience as a driver for their creativity, our friendly neighborhood YA author, John Green wants to debunk the idea that bad mental health is somehow good or helpful. 

Most of us are probably familiar with John Green's work. But, if you're not, here's the rundown: 

He and his brother are successful YouTubers and can even be called pioneers of the vlogging genre. John has written six books, including Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars--both of which have been adapted for film in recent years. 

John Green is, very clearly, a creative person who has struggled with his mental health for years. He most recently published an essay on Medium detailing three periods of darkness that he experienced as a direct result of poor mental health. John has spoken openly and honestly about living with OCD and the inevitable complications that come with that. 

Mental illness is stigmatized, but it is also romanticized. If you google the phrase “all artists are,” the first suggestion is "mad." We hear that genius is next to insanity; we see Carrie Mathison on Homeland going off her meds so that she can discover the identity of the terrorists and save America.

John Green

Of course, there are kernels of truth here: Many artists and storytellers do live with mental illness. But many don’t. And what I want to say today I guess is that you can be sane and be an artist, and also that if you are sick, getting help — although it is hard and exhausting and inexcusably difficult to access — will not make you less of an artist.

John Green

So I want to say that, yes, I am mentally ill. I’m not embarrassed about it. And I have written my best work not when flirting with the brink, but when treating my chronic health problem with consistency and care.

John Green

It is such a pervasive lie that, to be creative or make anything worthwhile, you must first test the limits of your mental health. The idea that, to be an artist, you have to experience Virgina Woolf or Vincent Van Gogh levels of unwellness is harmful and untrue. 

Thanks, John Green, for pointing out that creativity and bad mental health are not married. 

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