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Music, lockdown and mental health

Over the various lockdowns there has been a lot of talk about the effects of isolation on mental health, and there is no doubt that some people have missed the daily contact that they normally have with other people.

It is patently obvious though that before vaccines there was little alternative to keeping people apart to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Now though there do appear to be more options and whatever we think about mask wearing, social distancing and washing hands it does feel as though we can now restore some of the freedoms we used to enjoy.

How does music affect mental health in a pandemic?

Those suffering from mental health issues can utilise music but whether it helps or not is open to debate. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this subject but we all have up days and down days. You can read that uplifting music can help but does the music we listen to a reflect our mood rather than change it? Good question, but in my case I do tend to choose music that reflects how I am feeling, faster happier pieces for a warm summer afternoon and something more subdued for a grey cooler day etc. But do I ever try to change a grey day by playing faster happier music? Well not consciously, I don’t actually use music to try and change my mood but perhaps I should try it. A cursory search on the internet shows that there is no shortage of information on this subject and some of the studies undertaken do show that mental health can be improved by music, although it seems to be the case that this is most effective if the music initially reflects the mood but is then changed to something different to steer the subject in the right direction. So, if this would work with somebody who is trying to do it on their own is open to debate.


Then of course there are the professional musicians whose world came to a shuddering halt when lockdown hit. They had all the problems of losing income, where their next work came from and what the future held. Some found alternative employment in other areas, some working in the care sector, others turning into delivery drivers for Deliveroo, Amazon or anything else they could get. It was difficult though to predict the future and it was unclear as to whether gigs that had been going on for years in some cases, would return. Of course, there was such a pent-up demand for these events that they were always going to come back in some form or other, but it is totally understandable that some ever despaired of whether it would happen or not. Then there is the extraordinarily badly timed decision of some London theatre producers to reduce the size of their orchestras and making even fewer opportunities for musicians in theatreland, putting even more stress onto a sector which is already struggling with it’s mental health.

Events that we have perhaps taken for granted have returned and the hope must be that we don’t go back to 2020 and back into lockdown. On the other hand, we must not forget that Covid hasn’t gone away. It has proved to be very adaptable and it is not impossible to consider the unthinkable and that we return to some type of restrictions.

Let us hope not, but either way the mental health issues are likely to endure for quite a while, and organisations like MIND are promoting music as beneficial for reducing stress (Link to the Mind blog Why music is great for your mental health | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems), others use meditation, exercise or therapy where it is available, but many don’t seek help of any form, which is a pity as there is no longer the social stigma that mental health suffered in the past.

This is of course only the tip of a very large iceberg in terms of mental health, it is only intended as a way of provoking thought and discussion. There is a lot of work going into this issue and great progress is being made to tackle it, but at least the taboo is starting to be lifted.

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