Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Through Music

An orchestra in which musicians are dealing with mental health issues is working to harness the healing power of music.

Comments: 39

  1. ----fighting the stigma of mental illness through music ? One sincerely hopes meant is “fighting those who say there is one”. Giving in to them makes no sense.

  2. @HAROLDAMAIO If the body can become ill, why not the mind? That makes no sense.

  3. Graduated with honors from a music college in Boston. Became a music teacher.. I did not know I was suffering from DID . I went on disability and it crushed me.. I don't play any more .. I am a senior.. The stigma keeps me from living free... so glad to hear this.. I hope it continues . I will speak out one day .. #me too

  4. This is so great to see. Music is truly a balm for the soul. Hats off to Mr. Braunstein and the others who lead, participate in and sponsor these groups.

  5. @JEM thank you for reading the article and adding your vote of confidence in our programs! We are having a great time making music with our colleagues who, despite having mental health diagnoses, are achieving wellness & much happiness!

  6. I am thrilled to learn about this Orchestra. Members of my family are struggling with a variety of Mental Illnesses and in this country we do not give people the help they need to improve their mental health. The stigma and lack of appropriate care leaves people to handle these tough illnesses alone. A friend of mine in Germany who became seriously depressed was given one year of intensive care for her mental illness WHILE she was being paid for her job! That sounds absurd in the USA but it is what people with mental health issues need to heal. They need TIME and professional care: Mental health issues do not heal in 6 weeks like a broken leg. I have hope that our country will wake up and give people with mental health issues the care they need.

  7. @KLB we are so glad you found Me2/ through this article! You are correct about the lack of proper treatment in this country. It's amazing to hear about your friend in Germany. Wow!

  8. Music, like meditation, yoga and tai-chi, improves the mind, lessens stress and anxiety and restores the rhythms to our soul. I'm glad that neuroscientists are showing the biological verification of what we all feel when listening to music.

  9. Caroline, I think this is an absolutely AMAZING program for both the musicians involved and the audiences you can reach out to. Has there been any chatter about possibly creating a vocal ensemble branch of your program in the future? If so, I would be so very interested in helping out. Keep fighting the good fight and putting the gift of music out there for everyone!

  10. Music helps me survive the trump administration.

  11. I always felt my ability to play the piano has helped my anxieties ease and my worries cease. The purpose of music should be to give peace and joy. This does not mean that music cannot be dramatically intense or expressive as one can experience peace and joy thorough those mediums as well as in a good opera or performance. By the way, I have several piano compositions which I believe will give you peace and joy posted on You Tube, give them a listen and I think you will know where I am coming from. Thomas Tereszkiewicz (type under search in You Tube)

  12. Music is my soulmate.

  13. This is so interesting. I never analyzed the reason I stopped singing and taking music lessons in my twenties. It coincided with a crisis level episode of depression and anxiety. At the time there were so many pieces of my life that needed fixing, that I never went back. Mr. Braunstein created something wonderful.

  14. The original MeToo movement was begun by Tarana Burke in 2007. The NYT had an article about her a year or so ago. That said, this article points out the great benefit music gives us. I love singing.

  15. Unfortunately, the stigma of having a mental health issue is still strong. I was thrilled to see this article; I had no idea that the Me2 Orchestra existed. My budding music career was stopped cold in my twenties. It's now almost 40 years later, and I can say that my treatment-resistant depression robbed me of the energy and desire to play my flute. It's wonderful to see that the Me2 Orchestra operates in an egalitarian manner, and that it includes musicians both professional and amateur. Kudos to Ronald Braunstein and the members of the orchestra for sharing about their lived experience of mental illness for this article, and for bringing joy to many.

  16. How can I donate to this organization? I have been an advocate for people living with mental illness since my son was diagnosed at age 9 through volunteering with NAMI and in my career as an RN.

  17. I'm part of Burlington Me2/orchestra and it really is a great group of people and the mission is truly carried out. Caroline and Ronald are carrying out a beautiful mission.

  18. You can make a donation on their website. Follow the link in the article, go to their menu, and click on “Make a Gift.” Great idea. I am going to donate too.

  19. @kaferlily Thank you for your support! We appreciate it so very much! Best wishes to you.

  20. Thank you to Ms Whiddon and Mr Braunstein for creating these opportunities for musicians, and to Dr Collins for his interest in studying this area in more detail. I have a son in college who is a musician and is also challenged with bouts of anxiety and sadness. I believe if he had a non-judgmental and welcoming group like this on campus, it would truly help him thrive. With all the mental health stresses on our kids, I’d love to see this type of program extended to college campuses. Music does indeed soothe the soul.

  21. Music is balm for the soul. Playing it or listening to it is healing for all of us.

  22. It's interesting to note that stress, anxiety, and depression are on the increase in our youth at a time when less and less of them are involved in music-making activities, thanks in large part to severe cutbacks in funding and support at all levels of government, especially in our public schools.

  23. @Jim Stress, anxiety, and depression are on the rise at least in part because of ubiquitous technology. Let's give them something to do that doesn't require a computer or phone! REAL music...

  24. I was fascinated to read that the "music center" of the brain is not affected by mental illnesses nor age. Those special songs of our lives that make us crank up the volume remain alive and well in spite of mental limitations. Music is the direct, unfettered connection to our inner selves. Congratulations on this wonderful initiative. May the "Band Play On!".

  25. I play in a symphonic band, and sit next to someone who suffers from chronic, intense back pain. Yet, when he is playing, his pain disappears. Reading, playing, and listening to music, along with looking at a conductor, requires using so much of the brain simultaneously that it ceases processing the pain.

  26. Congratulations on your great work! What a wonderful--and important--concept. My hope is that in time such understanding and innovation will become an accepted part of mental health treatment, qualifying for insurance coverage, etc.

  27. This is truly great! I don't suffer from mental illness but I simply need two people in music daily to make me SOAR; BACH AND GLENN GOULD! I'm rich then, richer than all the riches in the world. And then there's poetry. Does the trick every time!

  28. @C T Yesss.

  29. LOVE IT! What a great enterprise!

  30. Making music together with others — there is nothing else like it. Whether it is an orchestra, a chorus, a small ensemble, there is a special kind of communication. Listening and cooperating with each other to produce a beautiful result. Adjusting to nuances, contributing a new idea, having others respond to what you do and in return responding to them. As I say, nothing else like it. I can see how it is beneficial for people with mental disorders.

  31. It's very unfortunate that people are still very ignorant when it comes to mental health. For so long people with mental illnesses were just considered insane, and I would think by now people would be educated enough to spend more time understanding people with mental illness. Especially if people need to push through it to further their careers as musicians. Hopefully this orchestra helps continue the trend of a more understanding mental health community as it is not enough currently. I would be interested to see if the neuroscientists found anything when working with musicians as mentioned.

  32. I'm so happy to learn of movements like this one for people with mental illness, especially for the removal of stigmas. Then to learn of the inclusion and the success of musicians who can start playing their instruments again, what a feeling of joy. I will put on some music right now! Thank you!!

  33. What a wonderful article. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Puccini, Verdi, Rossini... in my Airpods...have gotten me through the worst days if my life. Music can save you. A gift from the gods. Musicians are the avatars. Bless you all.

  34. lovely comment and absolutely true for many of us ! @Suez

  35. The Beatles got me through 8th grade when I had my first major depression. Music saves lives.

  36. What if one's mental illness causes one to be too anxious or depressed to practice? What if anxiety causes playing with others to be so stressful that one needs a day to recover? My chosen instrument, the viola, was selected because I sang as an alto and love to create harmony, a major point of of music. I admit that exposure has made it easier to play with others but I am a long way from saying that it is fun. As heartening as this article is, I find it discouraging that even an orchestra like this would not be a suitable place for me.

  37. @Mary Beth I understand what you are saying. For what it's worth, I can tell you that Me2/ doesn't have any auditions or expectations about practicing. We had one musician who was so anxious about performing that she only played rehearsals with us for two years until she finally wanted to perform, and that was OK with us. As someone who has struggled with panic attacks & anxiety, I always make sure that people know they can get up and leave rehearsal at any time.... no judgment. I wish you well in your continued recovery.

  38. Me2 orchestra is a wonderful idea, and props to the Times for covering it. I'd like to see more coverage of the various strange convergences between mental health (particularly bipolar disorder) and creative arts in general. There's a good article on this written by bipolar musician Ian Grey here: I don't agree with all of his conclusions, but it gives a clear idea of what a lifeline music can be for the afflicted. The work of Kay Redfield Jamison provides a more analytical view, and her interest skews toward poets. She, too, is bipolar. "Touched With Fire" is the book to start with. Her bipolar-biography of Robert Lowell is interesting, too.

  39. I am so grateful that this program is there for so many people in the mental health community who are musicians like me who deal with mental illness every day but are still enabled to express their musicality through these groups. I am a singer and a keyboardist and I lost my church position due to my hospitalization at WPIC. Is there anyone out there who is doing choral music? I would love to hear from you. I am a proud graduate of Westminster Choir College.