Music as a Healing Tool

For Individuals and Communities

Logo of MWB

Music is a wonderful thing. It can help you get over a breakup, help you get through a bad day, keep your spirits up when you're sick, and many other things. Artists put their souls into their music and often leave the true meaning up to interpretation. But can some songs can be used to tell the story of a struggle and help communities heal from a devastating event or tragedy?

When you make a new friend, one of the first things that you talk about is more than likely what music you listen to. If similarities in musical interests can help you make a new friend, why can't it help end a conflict and help a community heal? If two people hate each other because of their differing religions, but they both listen to the same music, they may end up seeing each other as not that different, no longer an other. I personally remember that when I was in elementary school, I was being picked on by a group of kids. When one of them found out that we both liked Slipknot, he started talking to me more often and ended up not bullying me anymore. Eventually, we became really good friends until he moved away.

There are also songs that are written for the purpose of healing a community or nation. The Cranberries wrote "Zombie" after an IRA bomb killed two children. The song shows Dolores O'Riordan's frustration with the Irish Troubles that to her, appeared never ending and in her own words, she wrote the song in order to show that not all Irish people supported the terrorists and that many people in Ireland were tired of having to deal with IRA and UVF/UFF.

"September's Children" by Rise Against was written to help gay teens know that they are not alone and suicide is not the only option. One story circulating about the song is that Tim McIlrath's nephew had a best friend who was bullied because of his sexuality and ended up committing suicide because of the relentless torment; after his friend committed suicide, McIlrath's nephew wrote some of the lyrics to the song as a way to deal with his grief. When McIlrath read the lyrics he decided to make it a Rise Against song. That is just a story that I read and I don't know if it is actually true, and even if it isn't, I still think it still conveys that music is a good way to deal with stress and tragedy.

There are many anecdotes of communities coming together and putting on concerts so that they can cope with a tragedy that hits or to raise money to help those affected by a catastrophic event. After the Newtown massacre, communities across the U.S put on shows to raise money for the survivors and victims of the shooting; Tim from Rise Against wrote a song about his feelings with tragedy, which as a father of young children, the massacre must have hit close to home for him. After a tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma. the town came together and rebuilt while also bonding through music.

In July of 2015, a study was released that showed how music therapy and music, in general, were great at helping people and communities dealing with stress. As an emerging field in therapy, music therapy has been used to help young children who have survived tornadoes and other natural disasters, sexual and physical abuse, and also bullying. The study also showed that when veterans who were suffering from PTSD started doing musical or other art based therapies they showed reduced amounts of stress and started to gain confidence in themselves.

During my research for this article, I stumbled across an amazing organisation called Musicians Without Borders. The idea behind MWB is to go into communities that have been affected by war and other forms of violence or trauma and set up sustainable music programs to help create a healing process for the members of the communities. MWB will also help you set up a benefit show! All you have to do is register your event with them and they will send you a care package and exclusive access to their online community. You can also donate to them to help those in vulnerable communities. Lastly, if you are a writer or artist and would like to draw attention to MWB, all you have to do is go to their website and download a logo for free and you can put it on your social media pages, videos or website!

There are many benefits from listening and playing music, especially when dealing with physical and mental trauma as an individual and a community; however, if you think that you are suffering from a mental health issue you should always go and talk to a medical professional and seek the proper treatment for you illness, and remember that you are not alone. Your loved ones will not think any less of you for asking for help, they'd prefer you to be alive and getting the help you need.

Kyle Stumpo
Kyle Stumpo

I run a blog called The Ottawa Sound which aims to promote Ottawa Canada based musical artists, venues and any other aspect of the local scene. I'm also in two bands Rebel Reload and Batavia.

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Music as a Healing Tool