Music therapy for PTSD and other mental health issues

Despite growing awareness of mental health issues affecting the Armed Forces community, many sufferers miss out on essential support and therapies. 

Campaigns like Heads Together have started to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Despite this around three per cent of military personnel have a mental health disorder and more go undiagnosed and untreated.

These health problems can have a long-term impact on sufferers, their families and on health services.

Music therapy has been used to help rehabilitate veterans since World War Two, but many struggling to transition back into civilian life still have no access to this therapy.

As well as supporting veterans’ rehabilitation following traumatic brain injury or other physical injuries, neurologic music therapy offers a powerful way to ease the symptoms of mental health issues.

The therapy can be used to treat PTSD, depression, pain and anxiety as well as isolation.

Joint managing director of arts therapy provider Chroma, Daniel Thomas, says: “Service personnel deserve access to the full spectrum of rehabilitation treatments available but not enough ex-servicemen and women have access to them all.

“There is considerable research that demonstrates people respond well to music as a treatment because it’s perceived as enjoyable and non-threatening.”

PTSD is one of the most common issues for veterans and many can suffer from this for more than 15 years after combat, with 30 per cent of sufferers dealing with this condition for the rest of their lives.

He adds, “PTSD is a normal reaction to abnormal events. Traumatic memories that cause PTSD are not stored like ‘normal’ memories, but music can by-pass cognitive appraisal to be used by the amygdala, the part of the brain which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory, in almost direct emotional processing.

“For many, talking therapies can be both distressing and intrusive and that’s why we developed a music therapy rehabilitation to help veterans. It’s something that works, as music is usually enjoyed in a safe environment, whilst also being evocative.”

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