Music and the Treatment of Mental Illness
Music therapy has existed for hundreds of years, but recent studies have explored how music can be used in conjunction with other treatment methods for mental illnesses. A research team at CAMH proposed a study in 2018 to see how music can be used to heal clinical depression. According to the researchers, music may be able to help retrain the brain’s memory and attention span, two functions that are affected by depression.
CAMH’s inpatient program regularly uses active and receptive music therapy as tools to help patients express themselves and feel connected to others (you can learn about their program in this YouTube video). Receptive music therapy involves a musician playing an instrument for the patient to enjoy, whereas, in experiential music therapy, patients play the instruments themselves or partake in music lessons. Research exploring the interplay of music, neuroscience and health are ongoing at the University of Toronto with current projects exploring the connection between music and major depressive disorder and suicide risk assessment.
How Music Helps with Mood Management
Mental illness affects 1 in 5 Canadians each year. However, due to the stigma around mental illness, many Canadians won’t seek the treatment or help they need. For those suffering from low or imbalanced moods, music can be a helpful and easily accessible resource.
One of the reasons for this is that music can make you focus on the present moment. Depression is often related to thoughts about the past whereas anxiety often relates to thoughts about the future. One music therapist suggests that listening or playing music helps you reconnect to the present moment. Music can also be used to soothe tense or hyper emotions and sensations in the body; it can be used to vent and express suppressed or neglected emotions.
How You Can Lift Your Mood at Home
MusicHeals is a Canadian organization dedicated to helping patients with physical and mental illnesses heal with the help of music therapy. They published a blog post listing various mobile apps that can help with various health concerns including mental illness.
Here are some other apps that can help you utilize music as a mood-lifting tool:
- Singing Fingers– a mobile app that lets you finger paint with colours and sounds
- Karaoke– a mobile app that allows you to follow the lyrics on the screen and sing popular songs
- Calm– a mobile app that includes exclusive tracks to help soothe stress, improve focus and sleep
If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental illness, first know that there are resources available to help you cope with what you’re going through. There is hope.
When you’re experiencing a low mood or anxious mood, consider using music as a tool to manage it. If you have access to the streaming platform, Spotify, consider listening to one of these playlists created to help listeners cope with anxiety. You can also search these playlist tracks on YouTube or find the artists’ CDs at the public library.
At Eli’s Place, we know that music can bring people together even in times of crisis. We recently hosted a virtual event detailing the life and music of Leonard Cohen. By purchasing tickets for events like this one, you can help us open our doors in 2021. Learn more about how you can get involved here.