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14th November 2014

Music and Mental Health

Music and
<a href= Mental Health " width="300" height="232" />I read an interesting news item recently, about how psychiatrists in Cambridge have developed a project that uses hip-hop music to connect to people suffering from depression. So what’s the connection? I suppose on a simple level listening to music can help improve your mood, especially if you can feel emotionally connected to the music. However Becky Inkster, Professor of Psychiatry at Cambridge University, is taking this one step further using the particular qualities of hip-hop music. She has just had an article titled ‘A Hip-Hop State of Mind’ published in the esteemed Lancet Psychiatry journal.


One of the features of rap and hip-hop music is that the lyrics are often written by young people who have experienced mental distress themselves. There are a number of songs describing the experience of severe mental health problems like bipolar disorder. Many hip-hop songwriters have been exposed to many of the risk factors associated with mental ill-health, such as social deprivation or drug abuse. The research found that people suffering depression can benefit from listening to the music and to connect with some of the thoughts and feelings expressed in the lyrics. One of the issues with depression is trying to get someone to open up about their feelings, and for many young people being interviewed by a health professional may not be the best way to do that. So listening to hip-hop music and identifying with it, or even being encouraged to write your own songs as a way of expressing your mood may be beneficial. You can read more about this project here.

Music therapy

A recent report based on another research project in Northern Ireland, has found that young people who received music therapy showed reduced levels of depression and increases in their self-esteem, compared to those who had not received music therapy, but had received more traditional care interventions.

Making connections

There is another project in London working on similar lines called Key Changes. This service was set up in response to difficulties in working with young mental health patients who we might describe as ‘difficult to engage’. Using the medium of music has allowed services to connect with young people by working with them to produce their own music. You can read more about this work here.

These projects may not be accessible or appropriate for all service users in mental health, but QCS assessment and care planning policies and procedures provide the opportunity to identify the music interest of service users, and maybe get them listening or even playing again!

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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