Abi SharpComment

"Music is, literally, the thing that keeps me going."

Abi SharpComment
"Music is, literally, the thing that keeps me going."

Music in Mind is Rhythmix’s ongoing innovative music making programme for young people with mental health problems. It uses music making to enhance life chances and offers help to young people aged 11 to 25 years with mental health needs. Dr Alison Daubney and Gregory Daubney have produced an independent evaluation on Music in Mind, and have shared with OFC their blog on the beneficial findings...

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The long-term psychological benefits of music provision have long been suggested in mental health recovery. This evaluation covers three-years of the programme implemented by the charity Rhythmix, placing music tutors at the heart of mental health settings for children and young people, has evidenced the significant benefits to psychological recovery that music can provide. This reporting period Music in Mind took place in the South East of England between April 2013 and March 2016.  Significant benefits were seen for the young people themselves, their parents, healthcare professionals and for the Rhythmix tutors delivering the programme. 

The independent evaluation report and case studies can be found here

Socio-emotional and psychological benefits

For the young people with significant mental health problems, Music in Mind provided a viable means of making music, improving healthcare attendance and reintegrating with education and the wider world through self-expression and friendship formation. It also afforded many of them the opportunity to explore their emotions, feelings and thoughts about their mental health in a non-threatening and accessible way, including through song-writing. The example of Simon, who is a transgender man and was treated as an inpatient at a secure mental health unit, highlights where this was possible. The staff said that music was the only thing working for Simon. He was able to record several songs, one of which, Simon explains, he “gave [it] to my dad for Father’s day and he was really proud of me." 

The psychological benefits for these children and young people was immense. They reported higher self-esteem, self-belief and self-confidence combined with greater resilience. These psychological benefits transferred to other areas of their lives to improve overall personal and emotional wellbeing.  Music in Mind also acted to facilitate the impact of the healthcare specialists through greater engagement from the young people with the healthcare programmes and more regular attendance at clinical appointments. When talking about Kevin, one of the healthcare practitioners stated: "Kevin does not attend school and his behaviour can be challenging but Kevin has attended most of the [Music in Mind] sessions and has really enjoyed the sessions."  


Some of the young people developed the self-confidence and self-belief to return to formal education. Cases included students who had returned to further study towards education or technical careers. Educationally, Georgia credited her work with Rhythmix through Music in Mind with influencing her chosen path of study. Georgia noted: “Working with Rhythmix has impacted on me because it has given me confidence and enabled me to express myself musically, and also to develop core skill using new music technologies to help me with sound design projects." Georgia was not alone in her progress with return to mainstream education. Music in Mind tapped into a vital mechanism to enable the children and young people to re-engage with education, after many had become disengaged through bullying.


Parents of children with mental illness can often feel overlooked. Noticeable in this project was the keen appreciation held by many of the parents of the young people. Parents sometimes assisted projects by sitting in and helping on the classes or even by extending the scope of the project beyond the original Music in Mind remit. Parents can often feel worried about the future of their child, particularly as they transition between different healthcare settings (for example, from being an in-patient to returning home and attending a community clinic). The parents of the children and young people in this programme highlighted the significant progress made by their children through engaging with Music in Mind.  Specific examples demonstrate parent’s views that music provided a means of practical engagement less afforded by other therapies or approaches. 

Developing the workforce

The Rhythmix tutors were central to the success of this project. Their hard work and commitment, combined with their willingness to undertake specific professional development, set the environment for the children and young people to express themselves through music.  Many of the tutors admitted that they were not previously familiar with many of the conditions they encountered during their work but really benefitted from the support of the healthcare professionals and training they received when working with the children and young people. Tutors also benefitted from greater feelings of self-confidence arising from their training, as another community musician said: "The LGBTQ course has given me information and confidence in having more knowledge. It made me consider how to talk to young people about their transgender feelings."

Why place music in mental health settings?

Music in Mind supports the notion that music can be a very effective way of breaking down traditional barriers to reintegration of young people with mental health problems into society and to assist in their clinical recovery. This type of programme should not be viewed as something that would be nice to have. Instead, it should open our eyes to the significant psychological benefits that can be obtained from thinking and acting outside of the normal provision for mental health.  Such important work relies on proper collaborative partnerships and the investment of time and resources in order to bring healthcare and music education together for the greater good of young people with mental health needs. 

Dr  Alison  Daubney is a  freelance researcher, evaluator and music educator. Ally has produced research and resources for organisations in the creative arts, musical and cultural learning sectors.  Ally is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Sussex and Associate Researcher at the University of  Cambridge.

Gregory Daubney,  MSc. is the founder of the psychological skills development company ‘Winning  Essence’.  He has been a  freelance psychology practitioner for over 8 years.  His background is in experimental psychology with an emphasis on the biological bases of mental disorders.