Cognitive functions of individuals with psychiatric disorders differ from that of the general population. Such cognitive differences often manifest early in life as differential school performance and have a strong genetic basis. Here we measured genetic predictors of school performance in 30,982 individuals in English, Danish and mathematics via a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and studied their relationship with risk for six major psychiatric disorders. When decomposing the school performance into math and language-specific performances, we observed phenotypically and genetically a strong negative correlation between math performance and risk for most psychiatric disorders. But language performance correlated positively with risk for certain disorders, especially schizophrenia, which we replicate in an independent sample (n = 4547). We also found that the genetic variants relating to increased risk for schizophrenia and better language performance are overrepresented in individuals involved in creative professions (n = 2953) compared to the general population (n = 164,622). The findings together suggest that language ability, creativity and psychopathology might stem from overlapping genetic roots.