‘The healing power of music’ is no mere platitude. The simple act of learning how to play an instrument can be used to help repair damaged lives.

At the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, a program called ‘I Hear You’ aims to aide the recovery of people aged between 16 and 22 years who’re struggling with drug and alcohol issues, eating disorders or behavioural problems. Admitted to the RBWH Adolescent Mental Health Unit, most patients can remain here from four to 12 weeks.

I Hear You hopes to address a shortage of programs at mental health units across the region, according to RBWH Foundation community development, Gail Headley. “By introducing music therapy, we are hoping to give something to those kids that they can turn to,” she said. “ Music can be a coping mechanism in times of difficulty and can help combat feelings of isolation which is common to youth dealing with mental health issues.”

Getting the Band Together

With the support of the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation and other benefactors, the unit has purchased three drums, two guitars, a keyboard, a harp, a recorder and small percussive instruments, as well was two tablet devices for recording and listening to music. 

Participants are encouraged to listen and perform using a variety of different instruments, including their voice. The funding has also allowed the program to employ a professional music therapist.

Running for an initial twelve weeks, ‘I Hear You’ is operating as a pilot program for what Gail hopes will be a permanent fixture of the adolescent mental health service. “Well pilot this, then a few weeks into it when we get some feedback, well start approaching other benefactors to come on board to help us fund it,” explained Gail.

A similar program was recently run in the adult ward, with surprising results. “The Adult Mental Health Unit held an art exhibition, and many of the patients who attended were very withdrawn,” recalled Gail. “Once the music therapist encouraged them up to perform and sing, the room transformed. Thats why we want this program happening.”