Responding to “Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Through Music” by Michele C. Hollow on January 29, 2019.
Music has been used as a coping mechanism and vehicle for healing for hundreds of years across varying cultures and civilizations. This recent NYT article discusses how some classical musicians who have been living with mental illness have come together to perform, create their own music community, and fight the stigma that comes along with having struggles with mental health.
The Me2/Orchestra is a classical music organization that has chapters in Burlington, VT and Boston, MA, whose mission is to create a safe space for people living with mental illness to come together to challenge stigma and perform. Me2 was founded in 2011 by conductor Ronald Braunstein after years of living with bipolar disorder. These orchestras perform several times throughout the year and consist of professional and amateur musicians living with mental illness. The environment sounds like one of support and encouragement; where musicians can come together to accept one another, get back to playing music again, and to be a part of a community that is actively working towards erasing stigma associated with mental illness. The article also talks about SoundHealth: Music and the Mind which is an initiative created to focus on the connections and relationships that exist between music and the mind.
“The environment sounds like one of support and encouragement; where musicians can come together to accept one another, get back to playing music again, and to be a part of a community that is actively working towards erasing stigma associated with mental illness”
The Me2/Orchestra is a great example of how music acts as a bridge between people who may not otherwise cross paths. The natural way that it encourages connections in social, emotional, cognitive areas within people is demonstrated beautifully through the Me2/Orchestra and its mission. Living and coping with mental health issues can be tremendously isolating. Having a space where people can rehearse, perform, connect with their instruments again and with each other allows for musicians to get back to their love of performing. Me2 will often perform at hospitals, correctional facilities, and events related to mental health. I would imagine it must feel empowering to give back in this way.
The SoundHealth initiative appears to have a great mission: to study and understand more about the impact of music on the brain, body, and how it may be used as a possible treatment intervention. However, they use the term “music therapy” incorrectly, as music therapy is already an established profession. It would be extremely beneficial for them to connect with board certified music therapists, and the American Music Therapy Association, as the profession of music therapy has existed for decades. According to the American Music Therapy association (AMTA):
“Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.”
Music therapists are trained on how to use music to address clinical goals and already consider the connections between music and the brain and body when they work with individuals. Musical interventions are the treatment and music therapists are trained on how to utilize music as their therapeutic tools. There is ample research available in AMTA’s two scholarly journals, Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives in addition to research that exists on music and its impact on memory, cognition, motor skills, social development, education, and emotions.
Music always seems to find a way to connect people who share common human experiences. This article highlights wonderful things that are happening to further the support the benefits of music.