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J R Soc Med. 2002 March; 95(3): 166.
PMCID: PMC1279505

The art of the mentally ill

I was much interested by Allan Beveridge's article1 (November 2001 JRSM) and consider his conclusions to be wise. Figure 1 reproduces a painting done by one of my patients in the course of a mental illness. When a student at a local university he developed a psychological illness which colleagues and I diagnosed as schizophrenia, albeit not severe; there was no aggression or ill-feeling towards friends or neighbours. Unfortunately he later died of a perforated gastric ulcer, and the picture was given to me by the family. It depicts a rough scene in some seaside bay, but the patient's father could not recall any visit to such a scene. Colleagues have agreed with me that it illustrates turmoil of mind.

Figure 1.
Patient's illustration of a stormy bay

Dr Beveridge's remarks on the disquieting feeling of strangeness perhaps apply also to other arts such as music. As an organist I feel that music can offer similar glimpses into the mind of the composer.


1. Beveridge A. A disquieting feeling of strangeness?: the art of the mentally ill. J R Soc Med 2001;94: 595-9 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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