Music-making is increasingly well established as a means of enhancing mental wellbeing. Yet, the particular features of music that support mental health remain largely unexplored. What is it about music that can help people to feel better and to function well? CPS Research Fellow Rosie Perkins and her collaborators Sara Ascenso, Louise Atkins, Daisy Fancourt, and Aaron Williamon set out to address this question.
The team conducted interviews and focus groups with 39 mental health patients and carers who were known to have lower depression and anxiety, and higher wellbeing, following a programme of community group drumming. The rich interview data were analysed to shed light on the features of the drumming programmes that supported their mental health recovery.
Three features of the drumming programme were revealed: the specific features of drumming itself, which was appreciated as a means of non-verbal communication and as a grounding experience that could both generate and liberate energy; the specific features of the group, which was seen as a space of connection where people experienced belonging, acceptance, safety, and care; and the specific features of the learning, which was an inclusive activity where mistakes were welcome and participants felt that they had musical freedom within a framework provided by an expert musical facilitator.
The findings provide an in-depth account of how group drumming can provide a creative and mutual learning space in which mental health recovery can take place.