Gosh, what a ride it has been. Hello everyone, and hello 2022!
I’m interested in all things new right now. Like a lot of mindsets at the start of January, I suppose. I guess for a small town boy like me, there’s a lot of unlearning that has to take place. And I’ve spent some downtime over the festive period thinking about my own personal journey going forward. It’s a new season.
In a previous blog about becoming a psychologist, I sketched out my interest in the arts and using it with regard to mental health practice. I can’t think of a more vehement force to propel good mental health forward, especially at this point in history. And that’s what I’m out to discover.
The world is reeling from all sorts of craziness. And I’m not even talking about a global pandemic – that was just the thing that brought it into focus. Before that, people were in denial. Or just plain distracted. I saw it for myself. In my pastoral work, I don’t think there’s ever been a time where things weren’t more forcefully and speedily determined than in the last 21 months.
Divorces, suicides, job losses and an immense amount of self-loathing was par for the course of listenership.
It’s brought me to reflection over my downtime period. And possibly the main thing I find myself contemplating is this: how do you prevent harm?
As a dad, I’d much rather stop my children from hurting themselves than have to put a band aid on a scraped knee or drive them to a hospital for stitches. But life happens. And some will argue that experience is the most profound teacher. And yet, I find myself asking whether there’s a better way?
One of my conversations with a professor in December brought about this idea of how mental health practitioners and students are moving towards the kind of work that tends towards prevention, rather than focussing on cure.
The big question is: how?
How do you stop a marriage disintegrating? How do you stop a person from taking their own life?
My instinct in pursuing an answer tends towards the categories of both childhood and old age. I have heard many a pastor, counsellor and undertaker tell me, on more than one occasion, that the thing that all ageing folks default to on their deathbed is a song or lyric that they learned in their childhood at Sunday school.
That is incredibly telling.
I test this out almost weekly. I see whether people can remember tunes and lyrics that they haven’t been exposed to recently, and almost without fail – they do. It’s that primal part of the human brain that stores up melody along with message.
So my instinct says, if you can populate that primal part with all sorts of exceptionally good, morally acceptable and essentially – gospel truth – through music, then why the hell not?
I’m convinced it’s all there already. It just needs some folks to subject it all to scientific rigour and then we’ll all be aiming at the ultimate preventative goal rather than therapeutic intervention: the arts as means of mental health.