• Marlee Simon, MT-BC, NMT

Mental Health Awareness and the Power of Music

Updated: Mar 5

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Did you know that Mental Health Awareness Month has been recognized every year since 1949? That's seventy-one years of bringing awareness to and minimizing stigma around mental health!

Here are some simple tips for how to gain and share mental health awareness:

1. Take care of yourself FIRST. Seriously. Check in with you. How are you doing? Do you need water? A delicious snack? A creative outlet? A solo dance party in your room? A friend? A nap? A good cry? Getting your needs met is the most impactful thing you can do, especially when you are struggling. When you take care of yourself, you can be more present in your own life and in the lives of those around you.

2. Explore mental health organization websites and learn about mental health! There are so many organizations that have information about mental health diagnoses, signs and symptoms of concern, and how to seek treatment. Just to name a few:

National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mental Health America

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

3. Check in with loved ones. When we are struggling, feeling lonely, and/or isolated, often what we truly need is connection; to know we are not alone in our struggle. When you ask someone how they are doing, and they respond, "Good," "Okay," or "Fine," it's highly likely that they are not actually feeling any of these things. Go ahead and ask again.

4. Share your story. If you've had personal experience with a mental health concern, share your story with others. Again, we thrive on connection. We cannot do this "life" thing alone. You never know who could benefit from hearing about your experience and how you overcame your struggle; or, how you are still learning to overcome your struggle.

5. Encourage kindness toward yourself and others. It's 2020, and it's cool to be kind. I promise.

It's time to acknowledge that mental health is for EVERYONE (especially now, in the midst of a global pandemic). I'm willing to bet that you or someone you know and love has experienced some sort of mental health concern. And it's okay. It's a common human experience. It's time to normalize and heal mental health.

You know what else people typically have in common? MUSIC! Music plays a significant role in terms of mental health and wellness. Research demonstrates the efficacy of music activities (i.e. receptive listening, active music-making) with persons dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, PTSD, and other mental health concerns.

One of my favorite quotes about the power of music:

Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul. - Unknown

And it's so true, isn't it? Music can express that which seems so difficult to put into words. It can make us feel like we are connected to something; like we belong, and like we matter. Music helps us connect with other people--loved ones and strangers, alike! Music inspires us to reach our full potential, motivates us to pursue our dreams, empowers us overcome adversity, and validates our emotions.

Here are 10 songs related to mental health and wellness!

1. Carole King - You've Got a Friend (1971)

If the sky above you grows dark and full of clouds, and that old north wind begins to blow Keep your head together, and call my name out loud, soon you'll hear me knocking at your door You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I'll come running to see you again Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you have to do is call, and I'll be there, yes, I will, you've got a friend

2. Barry Manilow – I Made it Through the Rain (1976)

When friends are hard to find and life seems so unkind, sometimes you feel so afraid Just aim beyond the clouds, and rise above the crowds, and start your own parade 'Cause when I chased my fears away, that's when I knew that I could finally say I made it through the rain

3. Howard Jones – Things Can Only Get Better (1985)

Treating today as though it was the last, the final show, get to sixty and feel no regret It may take a little time a lonely path, an uphill climb, success or failure will not alter it And do you feel scared, I do, but I won't stop and falter And if we threw it all away, things can only get better

4. Cyndi Lauper – True Colors (1986)

You with the sad eyes, don't be discouraged, oh I realize it's hard to take courage In a world full of people, you can lose sight of it all The darkness inside you can make you feel so small Show me a smile then, don't be unhappy, can't remember when I last saw you laughing This world makes you crazy, and you've taken all you can bear Just call me up 'cause I will always be there And I see your true colors shining through, I see your true colors, And that's why I love you So don't be afraid to let them show, your true colors are beautiful...like a rainbow