Mental health is an issue that has been given more attention as more people begin to talk openly about it.

Fifty percent of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 while 75% of mental illnesses begin at age 24, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34. However, 40% of students with diagnosable mental health conditions did not seek help because of the concern of stigma, which happens to be the No. 1 reason why students do not look for help, according to NAMI.

People who seem to struggle with their mental health have a variety of different areas to choose from to help improve themselves, including music. 

“I turn to music when I feel down or need a pick-me-up,” Lauren Harris, a first-year exercise science major at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois, said. “It is always there to lift me up when I am feeling down. On the opposite side, music can also reaffirm my good moods. If I am having a good day, it is always nice to have some tunes to accompany me with that.” 

Those who are passionate about music sometimes choose to study music therapy when they get to the college-age, and some enjoy teaching others about the beauty of music. But, there are some college students who have chosen to study both music therapy and music education, like fourth-year student Jennifer Greve.

“Music therapy has helped me personally understand the effect music can have on a person’s mood and attitude,” Greve said. “Music is a very powerful tool, and it’s helped me see how to use music in different ways, given different situations.”

Research shows the benefits of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma and schizophrenia. Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief — but music can also be used as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or for dysregulation, according to NAMI. NAMI also adds that there are four topics that are involved with music therapy: lyric analysis, improvisation music playing, active music listening and songwriting.  

Greve recommends music therapy for incoming students, and even current students at Wartburg who are unsure of their major or are undecided on what they wish to do with the rest of their lives.

“The music therapy program at Wartburg can help students develop their music and clinical skills for a therapeutic setting, and also informs the students about the profession and how to advocate for it,” Greve said.

While music therapy is one resource to learn about the profession and to use as a relief of stress, people have different strategies for how music can impact their lives. Some listen to music, some play an instrument and some like to get up and dance. In addition, there are other people in the world who allow music to help build relationships with those around them.

“Music allows us to connect with one another,” Harris said. “I love finding new music from others and sharing my music with others because it is a great way to get to know people by learning their music tastes, and I think we can learn a lot about people based on their music of choice.”

Although there are many benefits for one’s mental health by associating themselves with music, there are some negative effects as well. Listening to a song can help bring back a memory, and sometimes that is a memory one tried so hard to forget.

For people with depression, music can help them recall difficult parts of their lives that were not necessarily as bad as they had thought. Music can help people with depression remember more complex experiences, even though the events may not always be positive. However, those complex experiences may be more rounded. Music cannot cure, but perhaps it can help heal, according to Cretien van Campen, an author who has discussed how music, smells and feelings make an impact the brain.

Even if music is not something someone who struggles with their mental health uses to help them cope, music is worth giving a chance.

“I would suggest turning to music as it sometimes explains ideals that go through our heads better than we can,” Harris said. “[Music] can serve as an outlet, as well as a mood booster. Mental health is such a serious issue, but music has many therapeutic properties to help combat these struggles. Personally, I know music has gotten me through tough times, and I hope it can do the same for others.” 



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