NHS urged to pay for music therapy to cure depression

Making music using African percussion instruments has been proven to help people recover from depression by enabling them to express repressed emotions and communicate painful experiences.

Music therapy should be offered alongside conventional treatments, especially to people who struggle to talk about their thoughts and feelings, according to research published in today's British Journal of Psychiatry.

Playing instruments such as drums, the marimba and vibraphone, can help people – irrespective of their musical abilities – to open up and understand the causes of their illness, when talking to a therapist is too painful.

Music therapy has been demonstrated to help children with autism, psychotic young men and elderly people with Alzheimer's disease unleash trapped emotions and memories.

The landmark study has been welcomed as the first clear evidence that people with mental health problems should have music therapy on the NHS.

Music therapists work with people who are unable to communicate "normally" because of a disease or condition. They use instruments and sometimes singing to help children and adults communicate creatively without the need for words.

Making music with a trusted therapist can also be enjoyable when patients are unable to find pleasure in much else.

There are more than 600 music therapists in the UK but because of lack of high-quality research it has lagged behind art therapy, which is well established in many units dealing with mental health problems and dementia.

Depression, the most common mental health problem, affects one in six people at some point in their lives. GPs last year handed out 43 million prescriptions in England, although counselling rather than medication is recommended as the first-line treatment.

The condition can blunt emotions and thinking to such an extent that patients cannot comprehend or communicate what they are experiencing, making talking therapy impossible for some.

Angela Harrison, chair of the British Society for Music Therapy, said music therapy offered a safe, cost-effective way of treating a number of increasingly common psychological and neurological conditions.

"Music therapy allows people to discover for themselves what is going on underneath, as well as allowing them to express repressed emotions or memories. If verbal communication has shut down, as with autism or stroke, it has a huge impact on a person's confidence, which in turn affects every aspect of their life," said Ms Harrison.

"Music therapy can provide the key to unlock a person's potential within whatever constraints they have. This research is a huge step forward which shows it should be considered as a first-line treatment."

The study of 79 patients with depression was carried out by the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.

Case study: 'I regained my speech by singing'

Daniella Gonzalez, 38, from Bath, suffered a stroke aged 34 as a result of an undiagnosed blood condition. Like many stroke victims, she was left unable to speak, but discovered she could still sing. Music and creativity is controlled by the left side of the brain and speech and numbers by the right side.

"I was unable to utter a single word and fell into the hole of depression, but then realised that I could sing. I remembered songs from when I was a child, like "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". The music made me relax, gave me enjoyment and also helped my confidence because it was something I could still do.

"It was the only way I could communicate for six months. Music therapy definitely helped me recover from depression, but also I regained my speech by singing simple songs like 'Happy Birthday' and then practising each letter and word."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

    Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

    Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

    Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

    £15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

    Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us