Music, Therapy for the Mind

The University Counseling Center at Southeastern Louisiana University is located in the student union. Photograph by Jennifer Dettwiller

Mental health disorders cause issues for college students daily.

Mental Health

Research journal “College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations,” by Paola Pedrelli, Maren Nyer and a few others said that psychological distress amongst college students can result in unprofessional academic behavior and poor lifestyles. Psychological distress refers to mental health disorders such as depression, stress and anxiety.

Annette Newton-Baldwin, assistant director of programming and outreach at the Southeastern Louisiana University Counseling Center explained how depression can form.

“Depression can come from a variety of causes including mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medication and medical problems,” said Newton-Baldwin.

According to Pedrelli and Nyer, by the age of 25 years old, 75% of people who will develop depression or other mental health disorder has experienced their first onset. They also included that a traditional college student with a normal course load can amplify current psychopathic issues or trigger them.

Music Benefits

Taking a break and listening to music can be important for mental health.

“Music breaks have been proven to lessen stress and boost creativity,” said Tara Bennett, media coordinator for the Hammond Regional Arts Center. “If you’re having a slump or suffering from writer’s block, or just need a break, music can help you unwind mentally and also give a fresh perspective or insight.”

Newton-Baldwin explained that women are more prone to mental health disorders.

A study from Barbara Ashton titled “The Use of Short-Term Group Music Therapy for Female College Students with Depression and Anxiety,” at the Arizona State University showed that in female college students with depression music therapy can be a very valid and reliable treatment option.

Emotional Connection

This type of therapeutic design for students helps connect them to emotions and can be adaptable to each individual’s needs within a group as per Ashton’s study.

“The most outstanding benefit of music therapy is that it reduces anxiety and physical effect of stress,” said Newton-Baldwin.

Music is an influential part of people’s lives, making it an outlet for therapy.

“Music is a universal language, there are differences across the world with different cultures, different races, different ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation and all those sorts of things,” said Derek Stoughton, interim director of bands and director of athletic bands at Southeastern Louisiana University. “But music is the one thing that can combine us all together. I think that people being able to connect over a piece of music or anything like that can really be therapeutic.”

What also makes music a tool is how it plays inside the brain.

“Music is one of the only disciplines that I know that uses both sides of the brain, said Stoughton. “It uses both the logical side of it where they are basically translating code into how to make actual sounds, and the emotional side of it where you’re reasoning, you’re trying to emulate what the composer is feeling.”

Travis Cook, a psychology graduate from North Idaho College explained how people relate and feel differently for certain ideas and how it affects and correlates to their brain chemistry.

“For example, that’s why when you see those sad dog adoptions commercials that play sad music it makes the average person feel sympathetic,” said Cook. “There is different beats and rhythms that make us happy, sad and angry. That has to do with the chemicals that get released when it happens and your brain focuses on the sounds, beats and rhythms combined with the words of the songs.”

Around the Area

Though music therapy is not a commonly available therapeutic outlet, the Hammond Regional Arts Center, located in downtown Hammond at 217 E. Thomas Street, and the Southeastern Louisiana University music department offers many musical events for college students to enjoy and destress with. Some HRAC events include “Playing the Staircase” and “The Brews Arts Festival,” and upcoming campus events include “Wind Symphony Concert,” on Sept. 30, “Symphony Orchestra Concert,” on Oct. 2.

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