Ambition, Bipolar Disorder & Creativity in Hong Kong

on June 4, 2024
Ambition, Bipolar Disorder & Creativity in Hong Kong

For the past few years, Dr. Samson Tse has been leading research to explore Ambition, Bipolarity & Creativity (ABC) in Hong Kong alongside collaborators Dr. Winnie Yuen, Dr. Sheri Johnson, Dr. Luke Clark, and Dr. Erin Michalak. We are excited to update the CREST.BD community now that the study is done!

We would like to acknowledge that this important work was funded by a General Research Fund (GRF), administered by the Research Grants Council (RGC) of Hong Kong, China. This funding support has been crucial in enabling the research team to conduct this innovative study examining the intersection of ambition, bipolar disorder, and creativity.

Summary of the Study:

This project focused on people with Bipolar Disorder who identify as being involved in the creative arts, specifically painting or writing. During the study participants reflected on their creative experiences by using a Photovoice process, as well as in focus groups. Some points of reflection were mood, ambition, expression, healing and self-understanding.

The study concluded with a community art exhibition and human library. The art exhibition spanned over 6 days, ten participants showcased their art in the exhibition and were invited to attend the event and engage in voluntary discussions with the public about their work.

On the last day of the exhibition an event called the Human Library took place. Five of the artists participated, sharing their journeys of creation and personal recovery from BD. Additionally, the exhibtion attracted so much attention that it was featured in a prominent local Chinese newspaper!

Artwork featured at the event:

Emotions on a Body Map

Creation involved a lot of inspiration which drove me to create and the creation was a record of myself at different moments. When I recorded the moment, I needed to bring back some memories. Sometimes, memories help me move forward.
– Study Participant

Drawing as a Medium for Unspoken Emotions

The past, like chains and fetters, restrains the future. Trauma and betrayal gave rise to an armored coat, a thick wall blocking others while isolating myself. Chained by the past, a siege mentality emerged, trapping me within this armor. The suffocating and painful feeling of being trapped unveils invisible wounds day by day.
– Study Participant


In the acclaimed film Spirited Away, there is a memorable line that states, “Life is a train headed toward the grave, with numerous stops along the way. It is challenging for someone to remain by your side until the end.” Over the past few years, I have grown accustomed to relying solely on myself, but there are limitations to what one person can accomplish alone. At times, I feel weary… However, whenever I found myself at a dead-end, there were always individuals who extended a helping hand, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has supported me on this journey.
– Study Participant

Lead Investigator:

Samson is trained in occupational therapy and psychology. His research has included comparing the recovery experiences of people living with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, reviewing the effectiveness of consumer-led mental health services, evaluating the use of the strength-based model in mental health services, and examining gambling disorders among adults. He provides doctoral supervision mainly in areas of recovery approach for people affected by mood disorders, and addiction problems. Prior to his return to Hong Kong in 2008, he worked as Director of the Centre for Asian Health Research and Evaluation in the School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, at The University of Auckland, New Zealand, where he was also the Faculty’s Associate Dean.


From left to right Dr. Winnie Yuen, Dr. Sheri Johnson, Dr. Luke Clark, and Dr. Erin Michalak

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