Live Music Now musicians are performing at St Mungos Homeless Shelter in Camden and St George's residential Mental Health Unit in Islington to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. Dance and movement are encouraged in the sessions linking music to this year's national aim of using physical activity/exercise to improve wellbeing.
The complex mental health profile of London is characterised by poverty, unemployment, ethnic diversity with significant numbers of refugees and mobile populations. London has higher than the national average rates of both common mental health problems and severe mental illness including some of the highest rates for suicide, homelessness, substance misuse and depression. LMN's work with mental health service users specifically aims to combat isolation and loneliness, develop skills and learning and build confidence and self esteem.
Since September 2011 LMN has been running 'On A Good Day', funded by City Bridge Trust, involving over 60 music sessions per year and more than 300 participants. The project aims to improve Londoners' mental health through the provision of high quality live music experiences for some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Sketch of LMN Musician Dan Walsh by 'On A Good Day' session participant
In the development of 'On A Good Day' sessions, Live Music Now responded to the specific needs of a range of partners including a day hospital for older people with mental health problems, a community choir, refugee and migrant community hub and centre for the homeless. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging:
"At first when I was told about the group I thought James' and Tim's (musicians) ideas at the meeting were a little too ambitious for our elderly patients who either have depression and anxiety, bi- polar disorder or schizophrenia. I wondered how this was going to work in a room of people who were not feeling very upbeat and found it difficult to engage in groups… Well I was wrong! We all wanted to have a chance to test out the instruments some more and have been hooked ever since. To be honest a lot of our patients usually sleep in the afternoon. There has not been any sleeping or walking out of group on Wednesday afternoons for seven weeks! " Petra Sithole, Community Recovery Service for Older People, Camden
"INVALUABLE. It has already started bringing a greater cohesion, both musically and socially. I think that by the end of the course the new shared spirit and skills that the participants will acquire will filter through and infuse the rest of the membership." David Phelops, Coordinator for Harrow Community Choir
'It changed my life mood for a while'. Participant from The Forum (Migrant and refugee community hub for London)
"Over the course of the six week project, each participant grew in confidence and showed a real intrigue and interest in music. Each member of the group was provided with a manuscript book to keep, and we covered the basics of music theory with them, concentrating on a different aspect each week. They each composed their own 'rhythm rap' and we performed them to them on our instruments. They particularly enjoyed seeing their creations being performed! They were a very inquisitive group and eager to learn, we went into quite some detail with the theory work due to their eagerness to learn! Which was great to see. They seemed to enjoy the activities and relished the new challenges each session would bring." Philippa Mary Mercer, Musician from singing and composition project with the Forum