16 March 2016

the end animated gif

I’m always grateful for the effort of MOOCs’ organizers to provide opportunities to learn for free in such an open way, keeping up a good quality standard and inviting guests that contribute with their insights and expertise.

As I mentioned in some of my posts along the discussions, I was expecting more modern and contemporary writers to be analysed in the scope of the theme of mental health. Still, I became acquainted with poets I had not studied and some classic authors that are worth revisiting.

I look forward for a future course that may focus on contemporary english writers and poets.

Thanks to all, including peers.

15 March 2016

The course is reaching its end with the last week’s summary on «Ageing and Dementia» – Week 6 summary

A few more poems are mentioned in the summary such as «Forgetfulness», by Billy Collins.

Another poem «Mother’s Day», by Dorianne Laux and the reading by the poet of her poem «Dust» – 

Facebook group  –

Twitter – – #FLliterature

ReLit’s website – 

11 March 2016

The reading of the introduction of «‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia» was the trigger for one more acrostic «Reading Dementia»

reading dementia

10 March 2016

William Wordsworth «I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud», a light and pleasant poem.

Wordsworth Daffodils

A less gloomy and rhyming Acrostic on Dementia, inspired by Wordsworth’s Daffodils

Dementia acrsotic 2


Blackout poetry based on an article suggested in the course:

The Reader ponders sharing the book,

Joining a group suffering from depression.

The neutrality of a book enables deep discussions,

Poetry seems to work.

You slow down.

Every line is full of meaning, likely to recognize.

Pebbles feel like mint imperials.

Reading aloud, really moving healing qualities.

Remember the people sharing something together.

Healing Reader

An ACROSTIC on Dementia

Dementia Acrotic

An article on the therapeutic effects of reading – Professor Philip Davis – Poetry Not Prozac: Depression and the Reading Revolution

An article about fiction on dementia theme «Still Alice, and the advocacy for Alzheimer’s in fiction»

An asian short and touching film on Dementia – Going Home –

Short story by canadian Alice Munro «The Bear Came Over the Mountain» and an analysis in enotes:

«Grant and Fiona have been married for almost fifty years when she begins displaying signs of dementia. At first it is amusing; she leaves notes about her daily schedule, but then the notes start identifying the contents of the kitchen drawers. Soon she cannot find her way home. Fortunately they can afford Meadowlake.»

The adaptation to movie «Away from her» –

9 March 2016

In the interview with actor Simon Russell Beale about King Lear he establishes a link between the character’s decline to dementia –

Poems about growing old.

«Reunion», by Dana Gioia, an american poet who started a career in the business world, a poem about loss of memory and confusion, probably a case of Alzheimer –

«Soup and jelly», by FAY ZWICKY, australian poet, a poem  about old age and decay, about nursing old people.

«Gout», by Lewis Walsh, a NY School poet, a poem about getting old, fading youth, losing hair, taking drugs to keep one’s alive –

«Growing old», by Mathew Arnold, a victorian writer and poet –

A TED Talk of 2015 by poet Robin Morgan and her Parkinson’s illness –

8 March 2016

Final week, last chapter on Dementia, old age.

King Lear is one of the works to be analysed. Some connections were established between King Lear’s character and his decline as an old man,  eventuaslly dementia, it depicts the gradual descent into madness, a dark and tragic play. Shakespeare wrote the play by 1605-6.

In the interview with actor Ian McCallen he doesn’t relate King Lear’s decline change  to dementia, rather a set of wrong decisions that affect his life and those of family and nation. He considers that King Lear wishes to give away the power but not to abdicate of control, which is a paradox. He is intemperate, foolish and wilful, but he retains a strength for survival going a journey of kingship to that of a homeless. He undergoes a process of learning with his misfortunes and he survives because a few that surround him care for him and love him.

My visual notes

king lear notes

About King Lear:

«King Lear is a brutal play, filled with human cruelty and awful, seemingly meaningless disasters. The play’s succession of terrible events raises an obvious question for the characters—namely, whether there is any possibility of justice in the world, or whether the world is fundamentally indifferent or even hostile to humankind. (…) King Lear is about political authority as much as it is about family dynamics. (…) Darkness and unhappiness pervade King Lear, and the devastating Act 5 represents one of the most tragic endings in all of literature. (…) Insanity occupies a central place in the play and is associated with both disorder and hidden wisdom.» 

King Lear themes –

King Lear characters –

Critical Guide to King Lear (1) –

Critical Guide to King Lear (2) –

Critical Guide to King Lear (3) –

Silent movie (1916) –

7 March 2016

The course summary  – Week 5 summary


The animation about Depression «I had a black dog, his name was depression»

6 March 2016

Edward Thomas, an english poet killed in action in WWI, suffering from depression wrote poems on english countryside in an atmosphere of melancholy and sadness. An analysis of his poems can be found in

«In Melancholy, Thomas introduces similar pastoral imagery mingled with the echoes of war:

All day long I heard a distant cuckoo calling
And, soft as dulcimers, sounds of near water falling,
And softer, and remote as if in history,
Rumours of what had touched my friends, my foes, or me. (25 April 1915)

Again, the word “rumours” has a haunting, sinister association, particularly so because it is set beside the bucolic tranquillity of the English countryside.

Edward Thomas Melancholy poster

4 March 2016

Ode to a Nightingale, by John Keats – themes of the poem

Ode nightingale poster

A new poet was introduced to me – Philip Larkin . A beautiful poem – Aubade – read by himself (a nice voice) – An analysis of the poem – 

Philip Larkin aubade

An extract of «Black Rainbow», by Rachel Kelly,where she describes the early days of her depression, when she could not see any hope of recovery


29 Feb 2016

Week 4 summary

Week 5 started introducing Depression and Bipolar Disorder impacts on Literature and a long association between these mental illnesses and creativity.

John Clare is a 19th century poet, the example to introduce the theme of depression through his poem «I Am»

John Clare - I Am

Definitions of PTSD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, terrorism or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms include disturbing thoughts or feelings related to past traumas intruding on the present, avoidance of trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels about themselves and the world, and hyperarousal, persisting for more than a month after a traumatic event.

Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings andsense of well-being. People with a depressed mood can feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, ashamed or restless. They may lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details or making decisions, and may contemplate, attempt or commit suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, aches, pains, digestive problems or reduced energy may also be present. Depressed mood is a feature of some psychiatric syndromes such as major depressive disorder, but it may also be a normal reaction to life events such as grief, a symptom of some bodily ailments or a side effect of some drugs and medical treatments.

Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar affective disorder or manic depression, is a mental disorder characterized by periods of depression and periods of elevated mood. The elevated mood is significant and is known as mania orhypomania depending on the severity or whether symptoms of psychosis are present. During mania an individual feels or acts abnormally happy, energetic, or irritable. They often make poorly thought out decisions with little regard to the consequences. The need for sleep is usually reduced. During periods of depression there may be crying, poor eye contact with others, and a negative outlook on life. The risk of suicide among those with the disorder is high at greater than 6% over 20 years, while self-harm occurs in 30-40%. Other mental health issues such as anxiety disorder and substance use disorder are commonly associated.

The Truth About Depression [Documentary] –

26 Feb 2016

Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989) – – was a cuban poet, journalist and political activist. He is the representative of latin american «black poetry» or rather «miscegenation poetry».  He wrote about racism and at a certain point he met in Cuba the afro-american poet Langston Hughes whom he admired and maintained friendship with. Hughes influenced Guillén to write on the sound of cuban music as black american poetry was related to the blues and jazz. Guillén found his poetic rythm and Canto Negro (Black Chant) is the example, practically an onomatopeic poem –

Political repression in Cuba during the 30’s put Guillén in prison. In 1937 he travels to Spain, invited to participate in a Congress of writers and artists, and as a reporter he covers the spanish civil war. Rafael Alberti speaks in this video of that encounter –

He wrote some poems about the spanish civil war – España: poema en cuatro angustias y una esperanza (1937).

He travelled around Latin America, Europe and China in the following two decades. After the Cuban Revolution (1959) he returned and became the president of the National Cuban Writers’ Union for 25 years.

Many of his poems were turned into popular songs, like La Muralla (The Wall), sung by chilean group Quilapayún – or Canto Negro (Black Chant) – 

Guillén poems translated into english.

Nicolás Guillén angustia

Music and War

Music, Poetry and the Trauma of War

Literature and Trauma:

When a Child Kills – Reflections on a Shooting Range Death, From One Who Knows, by poet Gregory Orr

«With the accident that took my brother’s life, my whole world was changed, utterly and to its core. I survived, grew, and perhaps even thrived. But I never healed. And my survival had as much to do with luck as anything else. Part of my luck was to discover poetry, which has sustained me through a lifetime.»

His poem «Trauma»

Hunkered down, nerve-numb,
in the carnal hut,
the cave of self,
while outside a storm
          Huddled there,
rubbing together
white sticks of
your own ribs,
praying for sparks
in that dark
where tinder is heart,
where tender is not.

A New Century of Trauma?

Trauma: Theory – Reading (and) Literary Theory in theWake of Trauma 

Trauma and Literary Studies: Some “Enabling Questions”

25 Feb 2016

Wandering through the poems of José Gomes Ferreira

Jose Gomes Ferreira Vai-te Poesia

jose gomes ferreira poemas

The famous chants with music by Fernando Lopes Graça.

José Gomes Ferreira - canções heróicas

24 Feb 2016

Week summaries provided by the course organizers

Stress Week 1 summary

Heartbreak – Week 2 summary

Bereavement – Week 3 summary


23 Feb 2016

Mayakovsky anti-war poem «Why are we fighting?»

Listening to his voice – Poem: And could you?–

Documentary –



Carl Sandburg wrote anti-war poems and some on WWI –

22 Feb 2016

Week 3 summary  – Week_3_Poems

The 4th week opened with two guests, poets, who had traumatic experiences in their lives, one witnessed the rape of his girlfriend in his youth, traveling and hitchhiking in Italy,  and the other witnessed her mother’s death during holiday in Turkey from a wasp sting, later her twin committed suicide, which was linked to the trauma of her mother’s death. A written dialogue between both was made available –  

More poems on WWI were shared:

Last Post, by Carol Ann Duffy –

My Boy Jack, by Rudyard Kipling –

The War of Luxembourg, by Blaise Cendrars –

(french version – )

Photos WWI –

The songs of WWI are also available in –

Popular soongs of WWI, old sounds –

‘Auf, auf zum Kampf, zum Kampf!’: Bertolt Brecht’s song for Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Those were voices against the War. Rosa Luxemburg was a marxist revolutionary and philosopher. She was imprisoned several times for her activism. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were the founders of the german communist party, emerged in SPD, and were assassinated by the militia Freikorps in 1919. Freikorps would support nazism later on –

Brief note on Rosa Luxembrug in 1914 –

Brief note on R. Luxemburg and Liebknecht –

Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts –

20 Feb 2016

Alexandre O’Neill was a portuguese surrealist poet

alexandre o'neill poem

19 Feb 2016

Sylvia Plath was an american poet with a history of severe depression, treatments in hospital and multiple suicide attempts, until her final one when she was 30. She had frequent mood swings, tendencies towards impulsivity and temperamental.  Her poetry deals with shock treatment, suicide, self-loathing and dysfunctional — all subjects with which she had firsthand experience. She was also a painter and drawer. This poem «Edge» and its drawing are quite disturbing


Sylvia Plath_Edge
Sylvia Plath Ariel

Antero de Quental was an important XIX century portuguese poet, writer and philosopher. He started writing poetry early in his youth. He distinguished himself for his oral and written talents, as well as turbulent and eccentric nature. He was influenced by Proudhon’s socialism and was an active intellectual, belonging to a well-known group of intelligentsia of his time, called the Generation of the 70’s, together with other famous portuguese writers like Eça de Queirós. It seems that he suffered from a bipolar disorder and later in life he got ill and depressed and finally committed suicide. One of his poems «Words of a certain dead man»

Antero de Quental poem


Capturing the Horrors – The Art of World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special –

Otto Dix served in WWI and took part of the Battle of Somme. He was traumatized by war and had recurrent nightmares. He was a painter and printmaker and produced a series of etchings on the War.

Max Beckman served in WWI and produced expressionist paintings


Max Beckman, Die Nacht, 1919

Muirhead Bone was the official artist of WWI, his drawings:


Muirhead Bone, drawing, 1223

Percy Wyndham Lewis painting

Percy Wyndham Lewis, A Battery Shelled (1919)

More Art and Graphics from WWI –

18 Feb 2016

Film clips in an english hospital who treated WWI soldiers victims of shell shock (later designated PTSD), nervous and mental condition.

Shell Shock Victim – 

Shell Shock WWI documentary –

A peer shared a poem by Rimbaud, who joined the Commune of Paris.

Rimbaud le dormeur du Val

Another poem on anti-war by Rimbaud

Le Mal

Tandis que les crachats rouges de la mitraille
Sifflent tout le jour par l’infini du ciel bleu;
Qu’écarlates ou verts, près du Roi qui les raille,
Croulent les bataillons en masse dans le feu;

Tandis qu’une folie épouvantable, broie
Et fait de cent milliers d’hommes un tas fumant;
– Pauvres morts dans l’été, dans l’herbe, dans ta joie,
Nature, ô toi qui fis ces hommes saintement !… –

– Il est un Dieu qui rit aux nappes damassées
Des autels, à l’encens, aux grands calices d’or;
Qui dans le bercement des hosanna s’endort,

Et se réveille quand des mères, ramassées
Dans l’angoisse et pleurant sous leur vieux bonnet noir,
Lui donnent un gros sou lié dans leur mouchoir!

17 Feb 2016

English Veterans of the Great War (interviews) –

Ernest Hemingway novel »A Farewell to Arms»

Hemingway A Farewell at Arms

Erich Maria Remarque novel «All Quiet in the Western Front»

Erich Maria Remarque novel

A good collection of poems of WWI –

W.W.Gibson - The Messages

16 Feb 2016

Week 3 introduces Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental illness that can develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, terrorism or other threats on a person’s life. Symptoms include disturbing recurring flashbacks, avoidance or numbing of memories of the event, and hyperarousal, continue for more than a month after the occurrence of a traumatic event. (Wikipedia)

The term “posttraumatic stress disorder” was coined in the early 1970s in large part due to diagnoses of US military veterans of the Vietnam War.

Some english poets who faught in WWI are Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sasson. Wilfred Owen wrote shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare. He was influenced by his friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon, and stood in stark contrast both to the public perception of war at the time and to the confidently patriotic verse written by earlier war poets such as Rupert Brooke.

Wilfred Owen is the english poet of WWI, who died in action at 25 years old, the same year Apollinaire died.

Wilfred Owen poem

Dulce et Decorum Est – Wilfred Owen 1893–1918

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen - Arns and the Boy

Wilfred Owen poem «Disabled» – – Poem analysis –

Siegfried Sassoon –

Siegfried Sassoon - Poet as Hero

Guillaume Apollinaire has also faught in WWI and wrote some poems about the war.

Apollinaire À Nîmes

I subscribe to the blog Brain Pickings and a recent article focus on Depression – – where artists like Van Gogh, writers and musicians like Tchaikovsky are mentioned to have suffered from this illness.

The article refers TED-ED animation videos which have a set of videos in the category of «psychology», that include a few related to mental health, the development of neurosciences has explained many mental disorders:

A brief history of melancholy –

What is depression? –

How stress affects your brain –

Debunking the myths of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) –

How playing an instrument benefits your brain –

The fact that some disorders occur doesn’t mean that one cannot overcome them or lead an active and productive life . I think there are great examples of people like Temple Grandin who explains how she handles her autism spectrum disorder – and there is a great video that shows how the brain of a person with autism (like her) functions –

15 Feb 2016

Week 2 summary – refers to searches of poems in Poetry Foundation and these are some modern and contemporary poets:

Kathleen Jamie –

Kathleen Jamie - Moon

Elizabeth Bishop –

Elisabeth Bishop - One Art

Edna St. Vincent Millay –

Edna Millay poem

A peer shared this poem by Victor Hugo, which I turned into this visual graphic

Victor Hugo - Dès l'aube


12 Feb 2016

Dead woman, Pablo Neruda

One more poem about metaphorical Death and Funeral, by Emily Dickinson

I felt a funeral in my brain, Emily Dickinson

11 Feb 2016

Searching for poems about love and loss, here is one by Tagore

The Gardener Tagore

One poem by Thomas Hardy «The Voice» and some notes

Thomas Hardy The voice

A more extensive analysis in –

Two poems of William Wordsworth were introduced. Some notes:

wordsworth surprised by joy

wordsworth_ She dwelt

Other poems of both poets:

10 Feb 2016

A poem by Langston Hughes

Minstrel man_Langston Hughes

A beautiful poem by Robert Frost, about the night as a metaphor for depression and loneliness.

Acquainted with the night_Robert Frost

9 Feb 2016

Another week on «Bereavement», about loss and death of someone dear.

Some elegies to remind, the famous villanelle by Dylan Thomas, a poem to his father.

Do not go gentle dylan thomas poster

The famous elegy to Linkoln «Oh Captain! My Captain!» by Walt Whitman

Oh Captain Whitman

8 Feb 2016

Heartbreak is the theme of the week and the course continues to focus on english classics such as Shakespeare and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Fortunatelly many poems have been shared by peers and one powerful poem about loss is W.H. Auden’ Funeral Blues

Funeral Blues_Auden_poster

The poem is an elegy, the theme is about mourning, clearly stated by opening verse “Stop all the clocks,” the speaker  alludes to the idea that in death, time ceases written in quatrains, and it does make use of iambic pentameter, but it’s highly irregular in its meter, with extra syllables here and wonky feet there. And the rhyme scheme is tweaked a bit, too: AABB instead of ABAB. Auden is using heroic couplets instead of alternating rhymes.

Countee Cullen, african american poet of the Harlem Renaissance movement, wrote this nice poem

The loss of love_countee cullen

A beautiful poem «Forever» by Paul lawrence Dunbar

Forever Paul Dunbar

5 Feb 2016

Week 1 summary

The last forum of the week poses some questions how one copes with stress and what forms of relief one resorts to.

I made a new search on articles that approach stress and writing and found a few:

a) Writing about emotions may ease stress and trauma (Harvard Health Publications) – the article refers to some studies that found that expressive writing on traumatic events lived by people, namely students, might find some relief if they wrote about them.

« In one early study, Dr. Pennebaker asked 46 healthy college students to write about either personally traumatic life events or trivial topics for 15 minutes on four consecutive days. For six months following the experiment, students who wrote about traumatic events visited the campus health center less often, and used a pain reliever less frequently, than those who wrote about inconsequential matters.»

«Most studies have evaluated the impact of expressive writing on people with physical health conditions such as sleep apnea, asthma, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, and cancer. Likewise, most of the outcomes measured are physical, and the findings — such as blood pressure and heart rate — suggest that expressive writing initially may upset people but eventually helps them to relax.»

The article refers other studies with similar conclusions.

I suppose we all have experienced situations that make us angry and upset and writing about it may have a relief effect, because we transfer the negative energy to the paper.

b) Journaling Provides Stress Relief for HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) – Psychology Today blog – The article defends that making a journal, daily writing has benefits for mental health, because it’s a moment of quiet and reflexive thoughts that ease stress.

«Research has shown the tremendous benefits of journal writing on both our physical and mental health. Writing not only relieves stress and improves your mood, but it also boosts your immune system, which helps your body to withstand the effects of further stress.»

c) Journal Writing: The Write Treatment – The article focus on a study of late 90’s that shows that journal writing may reduce rheumatoid rrthritis disease activity.

«Journal writing which chronicles experiences of anxiety and disquietude can serve as a vehicle for the expression of negative emotion. Assuming a physical-psychological connection, the release of negative emotion has a positive influence on physical well-being.»

d) How Veterans Can Aid Resilience by Writing – this article focus on writing as a relied for veterans

«Specifically, writing can be:

  • A de-stressor and can release tension and settle the mind.
  • A mood-changer, with the capability of making you happy.
  • An outlet to help you let go of negative thoughts.
  • A form of therapy for enhancing psychological healing and growth.3
  • A way to increase self-confidence.»

Bibliography on the effects of reading in stress – 

4 Feb 2016

Matthew Arnold’s poem  Dover Beach analysis – a long poem that begins in a quiet and calm mood shared by two lovers and makes a transition for a reality of suffering and pain in the world –

pixteller Dover Beach

Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold

A beautiful poem «The Peace of Wild Things», by Wendell Berry was shared by a peer

3 Feb 2016

Poems on Nature

Edward Thomas’ poem Adlestrop analysis – Capture of a moment of quiet country nature during an unexpected stop at a rural train station –

Video – 

Some notes

Image with notes on the poem Adlestrop

Edward Thomas – Adlestrop

Edward Thomas bio data –


Yeats’ poem «The lake Isle of Innisfree» analysis – a nostalgic moment of remembrance of calm lake scene in homeland (Ireland) while in a street of bustle London – 

Image with Yeats poem and notes

Yeats poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree


Biographic data on William Butler Yeats – 

2 Feb 2016

I decided to make a search about authors and mental illness and found a few interesting articles.

In one of them, a list of authors suffering from mental disorders, is included Fernando Pessoa, which was the first time I read such thing, relating his heteronyms to a multiple personality disorder. I think that these articles sometimes push forward much speculation.

Pessoa’s heteronyms are one of his creative literary features, but it seems to me that he just created characters that write for him, much in line with his poem «Autopsychography» «The poet is a faker…» 

Fernando Pessoa had a regular job which provided him a regular income, unlike many of his artist friends who had subsistance difficulties. Mário Sá Carneiro, one of Pessoa’s best friend among the modernist poets, commits suicide at 26 years of age, in Paris, because of his anguish of lack of money.

The fact that many artists turn suicidal or turn to alcohol and drug abuse may also be a cause of social misfit, the social context is adverse and not inclusive of their difference. The rejection pushes people to the margin. Then, the sensitive nature of an artist may expose him/her to deviations and non-conformity and many only reach success post-mortem, having endured many difficulties in their lifetime.

And some were outcasts because of their sexual orientation.

I suppose that certain extreme situations may, in fact, be a direct consequence of mental illness and the testimonies of the authors themselves confirm. Virginia Wolf suffered of severe migraines and depression and in spite of her husband’s support and material comfort she committed suicide.

Other cases seem to be a direct consequence of alcohol and drug abuse. Do people turn to these abuses because of mental illness or they just get addicted and turn mental ill?

I found this interesting article THE WRITING LIFE: Writing and Mental Health about a swedish study:

«In the largest study on this question (including almost 1.2 million Swedish patients), researchers found writers to have more than double the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder compared to a control group of accountants. Writers also faced a greater risk of depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.

The “tortured genius” stereotype isn’t limited to writers, so the researchers looked at individuals in other “creative professions” (including artists and scientists). But artists in general were only at greater risk for bipolar disorder—and even this risk was much greater for writers specifically.

Some speculate that writers become depressed or turn to drugs because of the stresses of the writing life—constant rejection and unpredictable, usually low income.

But the Swedish study shows that other artists, who endure similar hardships, don’t suffer the same behavioral health problems.»

One of the cases I found (recently) quite disturbing was that of american poet Bob Kaufman, who would write everywhere, on the napkins, on the walls and most of his poems are lost. A complete outcast, abused by the police:

«his life was filled with a great deal of suffering: In San Francisco, he was the target of beatings and harassment by the city police, and his years living in New York were filled with poverty, addiction and imprisonment.»(Wikipedia)

Another interesting article – Creativity and mental health: A profile of writers and musicians

«These conflicting results leave many key questions unanswered. Is mental illness essential or merely incidental to the creative process? Do psychoses, mood disturbances, intoxications or severe characterlogical defects serve as sources of inspiration, allowing innovators to perceive reality in novel ways or do they inhibit creativity? Do mental symptoms or emotional distress represent the consequence of creative activity – the price to be extracted for relentlessly pursuing the unknown as Carl Jung might claim – or the impetus for discovery and innovation? Are many artists and writers apt to rely on alcohol and drugs to still their overactive minds or to fuel their imaginations when they are feeling emotionally blocked and intellectually inhibited? Even more to the point, are certain types of individuals, with certain kinds of psychopathology, in combination with certain other talents and abilities and under certain circumstances more likely than other types of individuals to make scientific breakthroughs or important works of art?»

1 Feb 2016

An english MOOC on Literature and Mental Health starting on 1st February 2016, promoted by the University of Warwick, in FutureLearn platform. 

How literature (novels, poetry, plays) can help people to ease the effects of mental disease.

The first week addresses «Stress», an interview with Dr. Simon Curtis who speaks about the problem, «the links between the mind and the body, explaining the chemistry behind the symptoms of stress, as well as discussing some of the different ways of coping with the stresses of modern life.»

There’s a good dialogue between the tutor and Stephen Fry on poetry form, and the following works are mentioned: