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Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 12:00AM

Creativity and mental illness - do you have to be mad to be creative?

Professor Raj Persaud

Using Robert Schumann as an example - a composer thought by some authorities to have suffered from bipolar disorder or manic-depression - why psychological dysfunction appears to so frequently accompany extreme ability, particularly in the arts is explored. Can a biographical and psychological analysis of great artists provide clues as to the genesis of genius?

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Raj Persaud is a Consultant Psychiatrist. Unusually for a psychiatrist he also holds a degree in psychology that he obtained with First Class Honours, and in addition he has been awarded over eight degrees and diplomas including a Master's in Statistics. He has been recognised for the innovative nature of his research by the receipt of numerous academic awards and prizes including the prestigious Royal College of Psychiatrists Research Medal and Prize and The Maudsley Hospital's own Denis Hill Prize plus the exclusive medical award, the Osler Medal.

He has delivered many of the distinguished annual lectures in British Medicine including the prestigious 2002 Florence Nightingale Lecture and the keynote lecture of the annual conference for National Institute of Clinical Excellence. He gave the widely publicised lecture celebrating the 50th anniversary of the foundation of The Samaritans. He has also supplied consequential entries for most of the established textbooks in the field, including the Oxford Companion to the Mind.

He has chaired prestigious panels, including chairing the International Aventis Science Book Prize for 2002 - the top book prize for science books given annually - and judges the annual UK Broadcast Medical Journalism Awards. He referees papers and sits on Editorial Committees for the key medical journals of repute including the British Medical Journal, British Journal of Psychiatry and the Postgraduate Medical Journal. He is an external examiner for medical schools which include St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London.

Besides his work in Britain he has been a research fellow and clinician at the top medical school in the USA, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He returned to work in the UK because of the strain of having to constantly search his American patients for guns!

He has published approaching 100 academic papers in learned journals like the British Journal of Psychiatry, British Medical Journal and The Lancet, but he also writes regularly for the National press including The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent. He is a columnist for award winning health magazines like Men's Health and contributes regularly to The Times Higher Educational Supplement and New Scientist.

He broadcasts widely for TV programmes like Horizon, Tomorrow's World, Newsnight and BBC's Question Time. He currently presents All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4 and besides featuring in several of their flagship programmes like File on Four, The World Tonight and The Healers, he has himself presented several special Radio 4 series including The Psychology of Fame, Measuring the Mind and The Negotiators.

His best-selling book, Staying Sane: How to make your mind work for you, published by Bantam press, is a vigorous and controversial polemic about his radical theory that the causes of most psychiatric disorder have been misunderstood by the psychiatric profession. His second book, From the Edge of the Couch, won the special commendation Tony Thistlewaite Award from the Medical Journalists Association for medical book of the year. Recently he was elected the rare honour of a Fellow of University College London and is a patron of numerous mental health charities including Depression Alliance and The National Phobics' Society. He is a trustee of Childline and Ambassador for The Samaritans.

In 2002 the Independent on Sunday newspaper conducted a poll amongst members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Institute of Psychiatry to discover who were the top ten psychiatrists in the UK as rated by fellow psychiatrists. Dr Raj Persaud was the youngest doctor to make it into this esteemed list. He lives in Central London, is married to an eye surgeon working at Moorfields Hospital and has two children who are the ultimate test of his sanity.

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8 November 2006

Creativity and mental illness - do you have to be mad to be creative?
Professor Raj Persaud

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