Blogging Against Stigma: Edvard Munch
Welcome to week 2 of a new series, Blogging Against Stigma. Someday, with a cumulative effort across society, people may stop dying from things like depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Someday relationships and families won't be irreparably damaged by partners or members who behave in ways they can't control or explain. Someday people who are diagnosed with a mental illness will not internalize that illness as a central part of their identities. Towards this end, this post is dedicated to Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch (1863–1944), an artist who struggled with schizophrenia throughout much of his life, and who used his art to express his experiences. His struggle with mental illness is being shared as a means of combating the one remaining factor that continues to haunt our approach to mental health as much today as it did throughout Munch's lifetime - stigma.
Edvard Munch's is most famous for his painting titled, 'The Scream'. What not everyone knows is that this painting is a direct reflection of an episode he had while walking home one evening. Sadly, Munch came to believe that his illness created his art, not that it was reflected in it. While there was little help for schizophrenia in Munch's lifetime, he seemed to also have felt his artwork, and career, would have been damaged without his condition. What Munch failed to recognize is that his art would have been amazing regardless of the theme or topic - it was his style that mattered. It was his method of artistic expression that brought him fame, not the experiences reflected through his art. Another side effect of not having quality treatment is that his illness would not allow him to fully trust the women he otherwise loved throughout his life. His efforts to comfort himself through alcohol also caused him to behave aggressively, driving away the human connection we all need. While he died famous and wealthy he was also isolated, and alone. Today we can stop this cycle by reaching out to our friends and neighbors, really listening, and connecting.