If you’ve ever listened to your favorite song to get you through a long day or drive away a bad mood, you know how helpful music can be for mental health. Studies have shown that music can alleviate feelings of depression, lower stress, and improve mental functioning. How about addressing stigma, and creating meaningful social change?
From Billie Holiday’s song Strange Fruit, a powerful song protesting racism and the horrific practice of lynching in 1939, or U2’s One in 1992 which dedicated profits to AIDS research and was rumored to be about a conversation of acceptance between someone living with AIDS and his father, to Lady Gaga’s 2011 anthem of self-acceptance and LGBTQ pride Born this Way, music has long been a powerful tool against stigma and helpful in breaking the taboos of the time.
Today, mental illness continues to be a forbidden topic in our society. While it’s socially acceptable to talk about a physical illness or ailment, mental illness is often regarded with skepticism, fear, and embarrassment. It can be difficult to talk about mental health without experiencing feelings of shame and stigma, which prevent many people from speaking out and receiving the support they need to get well or stay well.
Music can alleviate feelings of depression, lower stress, and improve mental functioning
We can change this, once again, by using music to break stigma and get people more comfortable talking about mental health. Better yet, the power of music doesn’t lie only with famous artists. Musical expression is open to everyone. Writing and performing your own music or spoken word piece about your experiences at youth organizations, with friends and family, an open mic night, or on social media can be healing — not only for you, but it can also help start important conversations in your community.
Through the power of music, you can create change and share positive messages about mental health. Let’s come together to remove the barriers and #breakthestigma once and for all!
Lisa Smusz, MS, LPCC, is a consultant for Each Mind Matters as well as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with more than 17 years of experience operating large-scale mental health projects. Ms. Smusz has internationally published works on stigma reduction and interventions for at-risk youth. Currently, she heads her own consulting company and is an instructor at California State University, East Bay.
Each Mind Matters is California’s Mental Health Movement. We are millions of individuals and thousands of organizations working to advance mental health. Each Mind Matters wants to end the stigma around mental health, so we started the Music for Mental Health project.
#MillionsLikeMe Music for Mental Health is a compilation of original music created by young adults who are participating in music programs run by non-profit youth organizations all across California. The goal of the album is to get young people to think and talk about the issue of mental health, to showcase the work of talented youth in California, and to support organizations who are using music to promote mental health in their communities.
Want to hear what these talented young artists have to say about mental health? You can download the album free of charge! Not ready to write your own song? Do your part by listening to the album, and sharing it with your friends.
Editor’s note: These tunes are great! Radio-worthy, we highly recommend them. So much so that we’ve created an additional link to the album on our Pinterest board, Songs that b Stigma-Free!