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Can hip-hop help people cope with mental illness?

Posted on: August 13th, 2015 in Mental Health No Comments


People think of hip-hop music in a variety of ways but it is less common that one would think of this music genre’s relation to mental health. However, when someone did look at this relationship, it turned out that the bond can be a positive one.

A new United Kingdom-based initiative called Hip-Hop Psych, has been addressing mental health issues through the use of hip-hop music. The initiative’s co-founders are Becky Inkster, a neuroscientist at the Cambridge University’s Department of Psychiatry and consultant psychiatrist Akeem Sule of the South Essex Partnership Trust. In an article published in Lancet Psychiatry, titled “A Hip-Hop State of Mind,” the two doctors assessed hip-hop musicians’ lyrics and how they pertain to mental illnesses. The researchers also considered how this music can enable others to fight the stigma behind mental health issues and tackle personal problems.

Inkster and Sule stated, “Hip-hop music is rich with mental health references related to addiction, psychosis, conduct disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and so on, as well as multiple environmental risk factors and predisposing genetic and epigenetic risk factors.”

Inkster and Sule have discussed musician Kendrick Lamar’s lyrics that explore subject matter pertaining to mental illnesses and addiction. The two researchers discuss how Lamar’s hit song “Swimming Pools” was inspired by his hard-drinking grandfather. The song analyzes numerous environmental factors that can increase the likelihood of developing alcoholism. Another song mentioned by the team is “U” by Lamar in which the artist describes a person drinking to deal with depression while he talks to himself in the mirror. Inkster and Sule touched on this diagnosis, explaining the neuroscience of the subject matter and how it relates to major depressive disorder.

“Our medical credibility and passion for hip-hop enables us to bridge the gap,” Sule and Inkster assert. “We understand the culture and speak the language. We want to share our knowledge in order to cultivate awareness, empower others to remove stigma surrounding mental health and hip-hop.” The research team also discussed how the prevalence of subject matter relating to addiction and mental health issues in hip-hop is due to the musicians coming from “deprived urban areas which are often hotbeds for problems such as drug abuse, domestic violence and poverty.”

The Hip-Hop Psych website calls the movement “the interface that links hip-hop music and culture with mental illness.” They have integrated the use of hip-hop music to help patients express themselves and address their battles with mental illnesses. This involves patients describing their emotions through beats and rhymes as a means of mental health treatment.

Inkster and Sule believe that the sometimes bleak imagery created by hip-hop artists can reach individuals facing problems with depression, violence in the community or other issues addressed in the music. The team’s approach may be unconventional, but has a place for helping ethnic minorities, which statistics have indicated have lower levels of participation mental health treatment services.

Music, whether modern, ancient or even experimental, holds a range of possibilities for human expression. Similarly, creating, responding to or even just moving to music in the environment of music therapy can present wonderful ways for many to work through the recovery process for mental health disorders and/or addiction.

Mental illnesses affect roughly 18.6 million Americans every day and many of them never seek treatment for their condition. For those who struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues Sovereign Health Group can help. We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment options for patients who are struggling not only with mental illnesses, but also drug addiction and dual diagnosis conditions. Please do not hesitate to call us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and one of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.

Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer

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