“Bops” Heal Thoughts

Music is a soothing outlet for teenagers who face mental health struggles.

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digital drawing by Betul Tuncer

Rather than only being fun "bops", music can often help teenagers manage and heal their mental health.

Betul Tuncer, Assignments Editor

The bell rings and almost simultaneously hundreds of students wedge in their earbuds or slide on thick headphones as they flood into the halls. Phones are palmed, playlists are shuffled, and songs are skipped until everyone finally finds that one song that fits their mood. Their song choices cover the gamut — pop, hip hop, rock, indie, soul, classical, alternative, R&B, and country. The discreet humming of headphones mingles with the sound of shuffling backpacks and hurried steps to create an almost symphonic ambience. 

For most students, the four minutes of music between classes is just a nice way to enjoy the walk, but for others it can be a means of nurturing mental health. 

Currently in the United States, one out of every four teenagers has some sort of mental health disorder, ranging from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and personality disorders to substance-abuse and psychotic disorders. Often, teenagers’ mental health struggles are caused by undergoing constant stress, being overworked from school, and having to navigate into adulthood. 

Unfortunately, most people suffering with such issues aren’t getting the treatment they need. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 50% of those suffering from anxiety and depression have yet to be diagnosed, let alone receive proper health treatment. 

Quite often, teenagers are forced to deal with their mental health without any help from professionals, or even from family and friends. As a result, some teens turn to music as a safe haven and as a form of healing.

It’s no surprise that music can affect one’s mood and, overall, bring pleasure and comfort to the listener, which is why it’s hardly shocking to learn that music has an abundance of mental health benefits

By allowing one’s mind to settle into an almost meditative state, music can help to soothe stress. It can also help manage insomnia and general sleeplessness. As teenagers, we often deal with a lot of stress, and whether it’s from our classes or personal life, it can result in a lack of sleep. One’s mental health can take a serious toll when that stress and insomnia is added on top of anxiety and depression.

Music also helps boost motivation. I’m sure we’ve all felt the effect that an upbeat song can have on our motivation and ability when working out or simply just completing a task. A study done back in 2010 found that this has to do with the fact our minds subconsciously try to match the beat and rhythm to the music we listen to. For instance, if you were to listen to a Daniel Caesar or Billie Eilish song, your heart rate would slow down and you’d be in a relaxing mood, whereas if you were to listen to an Ariana Grande or Drake song, your heart rate would increase and you’d be more motivated to do things.

The formal term for this “mental healing” is called music therapy: a form of alternative healing that incorporates making and listening to music to improve one’s mental state.

Throughout human history, civilizations have used music as a therapeutic way to heal patients. In ancient Egypt, India, China, Arabia, and Rome, medical professionals would often heal patients with the assistance of music. One of the earliest music therapy institutes in world history was “Darussyifa” in Turkey. At the institute, doctors would help mentally ill patients with depression, dementia, schizophrenia, and autism through soothing music and running water sounds. In more modern history, music therapy was first officially recognized as a medical field after the publishing of a journal called “Music Physically Considered.”

Since then, countless organizations and therapy centers have been established, spreading the benefits of music therapy to those who need it the most. However, one doesn’t always need to specifically go to a music therapy clinic to improve their mental health, especially if it’s not quite as bad. Music can be found anywhere and everywhere, so when you’re feeling a little down, it can at least help your general mood.

Music is a big part of my mental healing process. Though I haven’t been clinically diagnosed with any form of mental illness, there are times that my mental health just isn’t the best. And I’m sure other NASH students can relate. Sometimes school, the thought of the future, family pressures, and just life in general can be a lot to handle. And often, if not always, listening to music helps me relax and forget my stress and anxiety for approximately three minutes and thirty seconds. It’s not as strong as professional music therapy, normal therapy, or even medications, but some days it’s all I really need.

Overall, there isn’t an exact guarantee that music can help everyone deal with mental health. Everyone struggles with different things and has different ways to heal through them. But we can’t deny the fact that, for some, music plays a significant role in coping with mental health.