Research Assistant and PhD student in Clinical Psychology, University of Edinburgh
I’ve had the idea for this project for about two years, as I knew singing in choir was great and I came across some therapeutic choirs for my work. I thought, why not combine those two?
There were several ways I thought his could be helpful for people.
First, the little research that has been done proves that singing, and singing in a choir, are good for some medical problems and for mental health and that it is even better for you than team sports!
Second, I wanted to target mental health stigma. From my work as a therapist and research assistant I know first hand how much people can struggle with the feelings that there is something wrong with them when they have mental health symptoms. They can feel ashamed and inferior, and this can influence the social interactions they have.
In addition, there are stereotypes in the general population, which can influence behaviour towards those with mental health problems. These don’t just go away when people don’t know or don’t talk about mental illness. There is a taboo on talking about mental health and people don’t know about each other’s struggles. It is hard to look past labels when you don’t have the correct information or any information at all besides the media.
So for this choir, I wanted to bring people with different mental health backgrounds in touch with each other. In the choir, there is a good reflection of the ratio of mental health symptoms in the general population. My hope is, that singing together will prove to make a difference in mental health but also, in the internalised stigma that can make people feel inferior to others, or an outsider, At the same time, the aim is to change some of the stereotypes that people can have, that don’t have any experience with mental health issues in themselves or in their social circle.
This choir is just a choir though, not a therapeutic choir or with a structuring of any kind of conversations during rehearsals.
What I saw most over the past two months is people working really hard to learn the songs and having fun together!
I can’t believe what they made out of this project! Keep in mind, we had only 9 rehearsals and tonight is the result of that.
The reason we are putting up a show, is that this is another great opportunity to raise awareness of mental health stigma, and target it. We have an amazing line-up of choirs, performers and speakers that will hopefully make you think about mental health while at the same time you can enjoy the musical programme of the night!
Can I just say thinks to our brilliant volunteers and collaborators Sara, Simona, Katie, Lindsay, Emma and soon Leyla for their help with this project. And of course Ben Jones, our musical director, who arranged all our music and guided us through this process. And a huge thanks to the Edinburgh Fund, an organisation that is supported by alumni and friends of the University of Edinburgh. They funded this project. Sometimes it just takes one person or in this case, organisation to believe in something and by believing in it, make things happen and make a difference.