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Interview #003 Marais Van den Berg Gives Mental Health Advice

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

Marais Van den Berg holding a conductor's baton

What advice would you give to a young creative about mental health and the creative arts?

"Dear Young Creative Artist

Mental health issues often go hand in hand with creativity, whether you are a composer, painter, poet or novelist. These issues will have a direct impact on your creativity and productivity.

I would like to give you two very important pieces of advice, based on my own experience as a composer who suffers from bipolar disorder.

Firstly, if at all possible, get help from a professional. Psychiatrists are highly trained to make a diagnosis, and to prescribe the correct medicines. Believe me, you cannot do this on your own. You need the support of a psychiatrist who can prescribe the correct medication, and a psychotherapist who will guide you through the vicissitudes of your condition.

Secondly, if you suffer from bipolar disorder, as most creatives do, you will experience periods where you feel that you can accomplish anything. You are productive, and the creative ideas just keep on flowing. These are symptoms of mania, and while mania is great for being creative and productive, it also leads to self-destructive behaviour if not checked. At times, when you are in a depressive cycle, you will feel as if you cannot accomplish anything. Sometimes, I listen to my older pieces and wonder how I was ever able to create something like that. Remember, when you are depressed, you will most likely experience a creative block: just remember that your talent and knowledge has not disappeared, they are all there, but are being suppressed by the depressive condition.

The most important thing is to keep on creating – it does not matter whether what you do is shit. You can erase it. But don’t stop creating – keep at it – and the ideas will start to flow again. Remember, it is all there, just under the surface, but you might need to force it back into your conscious experience.

And, finally, never, ever give up. Keep at it, keep on creating something beautiful!"

- Marais Van den Berg


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