Youth mental health and music
On 4 May 2023, the ‘Jugendpräis’ awarded prizes to different projects carried out by young people in Luxembourg in different categories. The Fondation EME is very proud to have won the prize in the category "One for Creativity", with the project "Jus d’Orange", carried out with the young people of the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital of Ettelbruck. The money raised from this prize will contribute to the financing of the future project with the young people of this centre. The clip, which was released during the mental health week, aimed to raise awareness on the subject of mental health. By giving a voice to how mental disorders impact their lives, it also allowed the young people to stimulate their creativity and self-expression, in an effort to help these young people in difficult situations.
Indeed, contrary to certain prejudices, mental disorders can affect people of all ages; young people are also affected and deserve responses adapted to their problems. At these pivotal ages, care is crucial for the years to come. The consequences of not being taken care of are felt in adulthood, which limits the possibility of leading a fulfilling life in the long term.
Music has a role to play in the mental health of young people, both in raising awareness of the problem and in helping young people to get better, by offering them a means of expression.
Current situation in Luxembourg
A major study was carried out in Luxembourg in 2020-2021 on the mental health of young people, as part of the EU youth strategy. More than 2000 responses were collected. The study is available on dialog.lu
The results of this large study are partly impacted by the effects of the Covid of the time. Covid 19 helped to make mental health problems of young people more visible and tangible. But even today, situations of stress, burnout or bullying continue to be part of the daily life of some young people.
Although 60% of young people felt neither alone nor isolated, and 63% said they were in good or very good mental health, a significant number expressed sub-optimal conditions in terms of mental health. Stress and pressure, e.g. from school tests or performance requirements deemed too strict, but also stress among peers: feelings of exclusion, fear of others, etc. are common sources of stress for young people. In addition, 5% of young people indicated that there were situations of bullying in their class. Stress and pressure as well as arguments and conflicts in the family environment seem to be present in almost a third of the young people interviewed.
A healthy mind is essential for leading a happy life and at the same time successfully meeting all the challenges of life and adulthood. Mental stability strengthens the ability of young people to overcome problems and cope with the demands of adult life. Finally, good mental health enables them to deal adequately with stressful situations.
Therefore, taking action to improve the mental health of young people is an important issue for Luxembourg society and for preparing its future.
The EU youth strategy includes different objectives, including developing an inclusive and intersectional approach to mental health provisions for all, and in particular for marginalised groups; but also fighting against the stigmatisation of mental health problems by developing awareness raising programmes.
So, in such an inclusive approach, how can music be a supportive element in promoting mental health for all young people?
Music: raising awareness of the issues
This study highlights one of the prejudices that young people have about mental health; according to the young people, some adults or teachers think that young people are "too young" to experience mental health problems. According to the survey of young people in Luxembourg in 2020-2021, 41% of young people believe that school staff are not aware that mental illnesses also affect young people. Yet, worldwide, almost one in seven young people aged 10 to 19 suffer from a mental disorder.
Music can help to raise awareness of this issue among young and old alike, as it can be a great channel for expression. Indeed, there are many barriers to self-expression on mental health issues; social exclusion, stigmatisation, discrimination... But music helps to break down these barriers.
A project like Jus d'Orange, organised in 2022 between the Fondation EME and the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital of Ettelbruck, helps to give voice to mental health while maintaining anonymity and discretion, which are prerequisites for young people to be able to speak freely about their difficulties. This collaboration with the artists Forsan, Taipan, Falcon, Marc Folschette from Hip Hop Based Education Luxembourg and David Laplant, allowed the creation of an impactful music that makes visible the causes of suffering of these young people; grief, anorexia, precarious living conditions. This video clip reminds us that mental disorders exist regardless of age and can affect anyone.
This project had a double impact, raising awareness of mental health issues while allowing young people to create music...
Music: making music to foster communication and reach out to others
The positive effects of this project also come from the production of music by the young people.
For young people with mental health problems, a musical activity can improve self-esteem and help them to make progress in oral communication. The idea is not to replace treatment; making or listening to music is obviously not enough to cure. However, in a complementary approach to treatment, music can provide enjoyable moments that help young people with mental health problems by promoting the release of dopamine. This neurotransmitter is involved in the reward/reinforcement system and plays a role in motivation.
By creating a joint, interdisciplinary project, this video clip also encouraged self-expression and connection to others among the young people.
But this is not the only project of the Fondation EME that promotes the creation of music by young people.
On a regular basis, musicians from the Fondation EME visit various Luxembourgian institutions for children and young people with mental health problems to give EME Concerts and introduce them to instruments. These regular concerts are welcomed by some of the children, who frequently meet the same musicians.
The Bildung Beweegt project, musical discovery workshops in all regions of Luxembourg, will take place throughout April and May 2023.
Finally, initiated in January 2023, the "Akwaba Menike" project also aims to introduce the djembe to young children recently arrived in Luxembourg and taken care of by the Luxembourg Red Cross, who are more at risk of psychological disorders due to their potential exposure to precarious living conditions and profound changes in living conditions.
In these cases, music projects can serve as a preventive measure through music and for the mental health of young people, by promoting playful and varied activities, which can be used to facilitate stress management and in a free approach.
To put in a nutshell...
The Fondation EME is committed to thinking about young people in its inclusion actions through music.
Despite mental illness and psychological disorders, young people must continue to have access to cultural activities.
Music can indeed contribute to getting better, by releasing dopamine which plays a role in motivation.
It can also help raise awareness to combat prejudices about young people's mental health and be a channel for young people to express their specific situations in relation to the illness.