You are here: Music-making and mental health

Jamil De Dominicis

by Jamil De Dominicis

Grants & Learning Officer at Youth Music

Lots of the young people taking part in projects we fund have reported that creative music-making has had a positive impact on their mental health – with outcomes including greater self-expression, reduced anxiety and better social connections with others.

Over the last year, we’ve supported a number of projects specially designed to work with young people who are experiencing mental ill health.

Drawing on the expertise of health professionals, youth workers and musicians, these projects have helped young people improve their wellbeing through a wide range of music-making activities.

They’ve also gathered evidence and helped to raise awareness of the benefits of music-making for mental health within the music education and healthcare sectors.

Here’s some great music from a selection of these projects.

Arts for Health NHS

The Up Tempo project works with young people aged 16 to 25 who are in touch with mental health services in South Staffordshire and Shropshire.

The project has delivered a series of music-making workshops for young people being supported with issues including eating disorders, learning disability, postnatal depression, substance misuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and a range of mental health issues.

Working in hospital wards and community settings, the project has helped young people learn new skills, boost their confidence and self-esteem, and begin to address the stigma around mental health.

Here are two songs created by the young people from the project – quite different but both brilliant! The funky, brassy ‘Back to Front’ was developed by the group over a few weeks, and sung by the young participant who originally wrote the lyrics.

And the beautiful ‘Forever Yours’, sung by one of the music leaders but written by a group of young people on the project. The group had been discussing their mental health journeys and how they support each other when times are tough on the ward – and the lasting friendships that have come about as a result.

Quench Arts

Working in partnership with Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the Wavelength project was set up by Quench Arts to provide music-making opportunities for young people aged 14-25 with diagnosed mental health conditions, and those with other illnesses or conditions affecting their mental health.

Building up from one-to-one songwriting sessions through to group activities and performances, Wavelength has helped young people develop musical skills, emotional awareness, resilience, confidence and a range of transferable skills.

The project also provides a valuable support network for parents and carers, and includes training sessions for music practitioners.

Further reading: For World Mental Health Day 2018, Quench Arts released the Wavelength Online Seminar, drawing together a series of videos and resources for those within the mental health sector interested in using music as a tool to aid recovery.

Here’s ‘What Do I Want To Be’, one of a series of great tracks written and recorded by the young people taking part in the project.

The Music Works

Music Minds is a music-based mental health programme for teenagers, run by The Music Works and piloted in two schools in Gloucestershire.

The project helps young people to cope with problems such as stress, anxiety and depression and behaviours such as self-harm, aggression and eating disorders. It does this by empowering students to consciously use music to help with self-expression, self-awareness, relaxation and mindfulness.

Further reading: The project has produced a set of top tips for musicians and schools, and a practice-sharing video for colleagues working in the music education and mental health sectors.

Shanae and Jasmine

Here’s a great song and video created by Shanae and Jasmine, two young women who took part in the Music Minds project.


The Rhythmix Wellbeing programme brings music-making into healthcare settings including children’s hospital wards across Sussex, supporting children and young people with physical and mental health needs.

Rhythmix’s ‘Music in Mind’ approach engages young people in high-quality music-making activities that provide respite from their challenges, relieve stress and encourage self-expression.

'Let There Be Love' is an awesome track co-written by a group of young people from the project.


Based in Bedfordshire, CHUMS are a mental health and emotional wellbeing service for children and young people.

As part of their recreational therapeutic programmes, CHUMS have been running ENCORE – a music-making project taking place in schools across the county, reaching out to young people struggling with anxiety, low self-esteem and low confidence.

The project gives children and young people the chance to play various instruments and learn composing and songwriting skills, using music as a way of expressing and exploring difficult feelings.

One of the schools taking part reported: “The pupils have seemed more confident and been able to deal better with their own day-to-day lives. It also allowed them the opportunity to play a wide range of musical instruments and work with other pupils in a small safe group setting whilst relating it back to their anxieties. One pupil in particular was able to stand up and sing in front of the whole school before Christmas in our school talent contest.”

And CHUMS also shared a lovely quote from one of the young people who took part:

After the session ‘United We Stand’ [part of the ENCORE project] I started sharing things with my parents that I had never done before and since then we have been arguing less and I feel they respect and understand me more now.

Louis playing guitar onstage.

Louis’s story

Louis, 17, is a skilled guitarist, pianist, drummer and singer. When he started at Plymouth Music Zone he was struggling with severe anxiety and was unable to speak to anyone. Making music has helped him find his voice.