UK Doctors Believe Hip Hop Helps with Mental Illness

UK Doctors Believe Hip Hop Helps with Mental Illness

Rap lyrics help deal with depression and schizophrenia, psychiatry specialists say.

Published October 14, 2014

Since its inception in the late 1970s hip hop has become one of the most dominant cultures in music, but it's reach might extend much further than previously known. A new study conducted by researchers in the U.K. argues that hip hop can be used as treatment for mental health issues such as depression and schizophrenia, the Guardian reports. 

Two psychiatry specialists, Cambridge University neurologist Dr. Becky Inkster of the department of psychiatry and psychiatrist consultant Dr. Akeem Sule, are taking their theory to the masses. Inkster and Sule founded Hip Hop Psych, a traveling social dialogue advocating for hip hop’s use as a form of psychiatric treatment. 

There is so much more to hip hop than the public realizes,” noted Inkster. “I grew up in the '90s during the golden era of hip hop, when it exploded into mainstream culture. It is rich in references to psychiatric illnesses that have not been properly explored and which could be of enormous benefit to patients. We want to work with rappers, charities, medical groups and others to promote its real potential.”

To show how hip hop helps with mental health, Inkster and Sule want to investigate the “technique” of patients writing “out where they see themselves in a year or two and to use rap lyrics to outline their future histories” as a form of treatment.

“Many key rappers and hip hop artists come from deprived urban areas which are often hotbeds for problems such as drug abuse, domestic violence and poverty, which are in turn linked to increased occurrences of psychiatric illnesses,” Inkster pointed out. “These problems are rooted in their language and in their songs."

The introspective and candid storytelling components in hip hop culture and rap music in particular “often carry messages that are much more complex than is generally appreciated.” Thus, hip hop has become an “ideal medium” for individuals to not only “understand their psychological problems” according to Inkster, but to find “ways to deal with them.”

Although hip hop isn’t typically singled out as mental medicine, music is already being used as a treatment for neurological impairments like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  

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(Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

Written by Latifah Muhammad

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