Mental Illness Treated by Hip-Hop Music

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Cambridge University scientific researchers in England are seeking to prove that mental illness can be effectively treated by listening to and writing hip-hop music. Neuroscientist Becky Inkster and consultant Akeem Sule of the South Essex Partnership Trust  have recently created a new social venture company called Hip Hop Psych. These two scientists believe hip hop music has tangible therapeutic benefits for those with psychiatric illnesses and they hope their newest efforts will provide the social proof behind the academic theory.

Inkster grew up around hip-hop music when it was just making its official debut into mainstream music. She claims that many lyrics reference mental health problems where artists worked out their issues by composing lyrics. One possible therapeutic technique she wants to explore  is to have psychiatric patients compose rap lyrics about their future and where they see themselves heading in the next year or two.  She also believes that individuals can develop a self-awareness about the psychological issues that plague them.

Inkster states that rap and hip-hop music carries far more complex messages than most people realize and appreciate. Inkster and Sule consider hip hop music the ideal medium for the treatment of mental illness problems and finding appropriate coping mechanisms. Inkster feels that working these complicated issues out on paper in a creative format will help these troubled individuals feel empowered.

Not only will mental illness patients be instructed to write about their struggles in the form of song lyrics as therapeutic treatment, they will also be encouraged to perform them as well. This may proving a healing release by allowing them to voice and feel the full range of emotions that come with coping with these difficult matters. Hip-hop artists have been using this musical style for a very long time as therapeutic treatments, and she hopes to help everyday individuals learn how to do the same.

Inkster stated that many hip-hop artists and rappers came from places where drug abuse, poverty, and domestic violence are rampant problems. Growing up in this type of environment can create all sorts of psychiatric illnesses. These mental health issues can be easily detected through the lyrics of many hit songs already on the market. Inkster hopes to explore these songs in upcoming lectures and provide her analysis on what psychiatric illnesses are addressed in each song based on the composed lyrics.

Inkster and Sule hope to work with the charities, amateur and professional hip hop artists, medical groups, and other groups to help promote the positive healing potential that hip hop music can have to treat mental illness.  Inkster and Sule are even considering how to use rap and hip hop music to teach medical students about mental health illnesses and their complex symptoms. These two scientific creators of the social venture company Hip Hop Psych will be discussing more about their theories on how mental illness can be treated by listening to and writing hip-hop music lyrics when they speak next week at the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas. They also plan to discuss such celebrity artists as Tupac, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.

By Valerie Bordeau




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