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Treating Mental Illness: The Benefits of Music Therapy

" One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley

Once upon a time, mental illnesses of any kind were cause for shame and disgrace to a family and individual. Nowadays, people speak about it more openly, and thankfully we're better able to deal with it. More importantly, we're making strides in dealing with these mental health diseases.

In this article, you'll find an overview of mental health, the implications of mental illnesses on Americans, the benefits of music on the mind, the benefits of music therapy in treating mental illnesses and an ideation of what music therapy looks like.

Marley Singing and Dancing to music

What Constitutes Mental Health?

Mental health refers to an individual’s emotional, psychological, cognitive and social well-being. Our mental fitness determines how we deal with stress, other people and the kinds and quality of our choices. What determines how we deal with these things? Mental illnesses may be caused by difference reasons:

Biology—some of us are predisposed to certain illnesses. They are programmed into our genes and are passed down from one family member to another

Life experiences—our minds’ reaction to trauma often results in some form of mental struggle

Brain injury or defect—brain injury ensues from a physically traumatic incident, and some people are just born with brain deformities that lead to mental illnesses

Substance abuse—prolonged substance abuse can cause some serious damage to our cognitive and psychological functions

Mental Illness in Americans

Did you know that about 5 million Americans are living with age-related Dementia? It's projected that one (1) in every six (6) women will develop Dementia, and one (1) in every (10) men will be diagnosed with the disease.

Another form of mental illness that is common among seniors is depression. 6% of seniors live with or have lived with depression.

As for the younger adults, in every five (5) there is one (1) who suffers from mental illness. That means that over 40 million Americans are dealing with some form of mental illness ranging from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia.

As scary as it is, mental illness does not pardon our youth. There was a 6% increase from 2012 to 2015 of kids aged 13 to 18 who experienced severe mental disorder. About 21% of kids in the 8-15 age group has suffered from a mental disorder.

Mental illness is a growing issue in America. More and more people are being diagnosed with mental diseases. As far as music therapy is concerned, my only question is this:

elder woman with dementia listening to music as therapy

How can Music Help with the Illnesses of the Mind?

Do you know anyone who is immune to the effects of music? I sure don’t. Music has been established as a means of lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress-causing hormone. When your cortisol levels are high, not only are you stressed, but your blood pressure and heart rate are high.

Music is known for its benefits to our health, benefits that are often taken for granted:

  • Music reduces our stress level

  • Music helps to lessen our blood pressure

  • Music improves our mood through the production of serotonin—the mood enhancing hormone

  • Music decreases the feelings of hopelessness by improving our mood

It suffices to say then, that music therapy can be instrumental in improving mental fitness and well-being. Researchers believe that music can play an active role in improving cognitive, psychological and social functions.

What is Music Therapy and What does it Look Like?

Music therapy is an established clinical practice that employs music in a therapeutic relationship to deal with the emotional, psychological, social and cognitive needs of individuals.

Music therapy isn't limited to passively listening to music, but also involves the creation, moving to, and singing along with music. Any form of interaction with music is encouraged to help strengthen and improve a patient’s communicative, social, emotional and psychological capabilities.

Elder playing piano for music therapy

Mental Health Diseases and Music Therapy

Dementia: Facilitates improvement in memory, cognitive, and verbal communication. Music therapy evokes emotions that bring back memories. As a mood enhancer, music helps to reduce agitation in Dementia patients

Depression: depression is a state of constant hopelessness and bad mood. Music therapy helps to enhance our moods and sense of self

Autism: music therapy is used in teaching to help improve verbal and non-verbal communication skills

Music is undoubtedly a great influence on our mental, emotional and psychological capacities. Researchers reiterate the usefulness of music therapy in treating mental illness, but that doesn't negate the need and benefits of other forms of therapy. Music therapy works best when coupled with other forms of treatment.

It's Mental Health Awareness month and Dorson Home Care wants to help raise awareness about mental illness. Help us by sharing this article with your friends.

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