Music as medicine for mental illness

Music has always been a cause for celebration. Through concerts, its creation, or simply listening to a song on the radio, music brings people together and evokes emotions. For some people, music provides a sanctuary from the turmoil of mental illness.

In the TedTalk below, violinist Robert Gupta discusses the violin lesson he gave Nathaniel Ayers. A child prodigy, Ayers entered Juilliard in his youth, yet dropped out in his third year due to the onset of paranoid schizophrenia. Thirty-years later, he was homeless in Los Angeles.

Gupta relays the day of the lesson, stating that Ayers arrived agitated. Hoping to assist in calming Ayers, Gupta began to play a violin piece. Gupta describes that, “As I played, I understood that there was a profound change occurring in Nathaniel’s eyes. It was as if he was in the grip of some invisible pharmaceutical – a chemical reaction for which my playing the music was its catalyst. And Nathaniel’s manic rage was transformed into understanding, a quiet curiosity, and a grace.”

To the audience, Gupta introduces the idea that music can be a form of medicine that has the power to bring sanity and escape from the hectic nature of daily life. Of the change he saw in that moment with Ayers, Gupta says, “Through playing music…this man had transformed. From the paranoid, disturbed man that had just come from walking the streets of downtown Los Angeles, to the charming, erudite, brilliant, Juilliard-trained musician.”

Go to the LA Times, to read an update about Nathaniel Ayers written by Steve Lopez.

This video may begin with a commercial which was not chosen by or for the benefit of DisAbility Rights Galaxy.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.