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Mental Illness and Creativity Within the Family

Faculty Supervisor:
Paul Lewis
Year of Project Completion:
Elizabeth Friesen


Support exists across many settings that there is a correlation between mental illness and creativity. Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia create different sensations within the brain structure that allow people with these illnesses to perceive this world in a unique way. This unique view enables their creative work to be more enhanced and unusual-more creative. I propose that just as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is genetically passed down, so could be the creativity that is induced by the mental illness. I hypothesized that the family members of the person afflicted with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder will display more creativity than those who do not have a family member with this mental illness. For my study, I administered the Guilford's Alternative Uses Inventory to 37 participants. 12 participants had family members with different types of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and 25 subjects who did not have any family history of these illnesses. 5 participants had family members diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 7 participants had family members diagnosed with schizophrenia. I compared the two differing subject groups. I had hoped to find a correlation between these mental illnesses and creativity within the familial members to a larger extent than to those who did not have family afflicted with mental illness. While creativity was not significantly linked to family members of people afflicted with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, we found that gender and age do not play a role in creativity. The roles of creativity within those afflicted are discussed as well as implications and future directions.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.