Mental Health Awareness Week: finding harmony through music

For #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, we have curated a playlist of tracks written and recorded by participants on our projects, that tell the stories of the personal struggles they have faced.

According to the Centre of Mental Health, the vast majority of people who come into custodial settings have vulnerabilities and often complex needs, with nine out of ten prisoners having at least one mental health or substance misuse problem. 

We know from our participants that our collaborative music interventions can help, by providing individuals with: 

  • A supportive environment to express themselves, process negative emotions and have their stories heard 
  • Increased confidence, self-esteem and a sense of pride in creating a high-quality album of music from scratch 
  • A shared purpose and an opportunity to form positive social connections
  • A challenge- a chance to step outside of their comfort zones and build resilience
  • A meaningful activity to focus on during difficult times 

Since 2021, we have been working closely with mental health teams in prisons and the community to deliver our creative interventions to those most in need of this support. To date, we have partnered with forensic clinical psychology teams at HMP Woodhill, HMP Bronzefield, Park Royal Hospital and HMP Brixton, working with individuals on the Offender Personality Disorder Pathway, a joint NHS/ HMPPS programme, which aims to improve the mental health for high-risk individuals with personality disorders and reduce the risk of reoffending.

Most recently, we have also been working with people in the community through our partnership the acute mental health ward at Northwick Park Hospital, as well via referrals onto our ‘through the gate’ project, Making Waves, from the London Pathways Partnership (LPP)

“Songs of Freedom” at HMP La Moye with Finding Rhythms team Picture: DAVID FERGUSON

Drawing on Narrative Therapy practices, our programmes use music as a vehicle for participants to explore different self-identities, identify negative stories they are told by themselves or others, and rewrite new, more positive stories. 

Participants work with highly skilled music professionals to write and record music together, producing a professional standard album of music which can be shared on popular music streaming platforms. The music is showcased at a Listening Party, where participants, their support networks and staff come together to celebrate their new, more positive stories about themselves and their experiences. 

In an evaluation of two recent projects at Northwick Park Hospital, 100% of the participants reported increased feeling of safety and belonging in the group, and 82% reported an improvement in their feelings about themselves upon completion of the project. Many of the participants felt confident to take positive next steps after the project, for example, by planning to return to university, starting to apply for part-time work, and requesting referrals for employment support and psychological therapies. 

Testimonials from our participants highlight the positive impact the projects on their wellbeing: 

Listen to our #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek playlist, featuring music by project participants here. Themes within the music reflect the conversations and processes which occur in the sessions, where ideas around mental health, trauma, gang violence, and interpersonal challenges are explored safely within the group. Many of the lyrics can be heard as the men exploring current and past narratives, and exploring their own feelings and hopes for their futures. 

TW: The tracks on this playlist deal with difficult themes including suicide, experiences of racism, poverty and addiction.

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