Two researchers from the department (neuroscientist Dr Becky Inkster and psychiatrist Dr Akeem Sule) have found that listening to and creating hip-hop music can help people experiencing mental health difficulties. Their discovery comes from a joint social venture, which they have named ”Hip-hop Psych”, which aims to utilise this musical genre to help treat people with a range of mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression.
The idea came about when the pair realised they shared a passion for hip-hop music. Dr Inkster explained to the Guardian newspaper in this article that: “There is so much more to hip-hop than the public realises. 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.”
Dr Sule told the BBC, in a separate article published on the BBC, that: “I wanted to be a rapper, but my parents wanted me to do psychiatry. I’m from Nigeria. You did what your parents said.”
When taking part in the project, patients have been encouraged to write their own hip-hop or rap lyrics, as well as listening to the works of other artists which may chime with their experiences. Hip-hop is thought to be useful in this regard as many of its artists explore issues such as poverty and domestic violence, which may lead on to mental illness. The researchers eventually hope to encourage patients to think about where they see themselves in two years time, and to write lyrics to articulate their envisaged futures. It has also been suggested that hip-hop music could be used to train medical students about mental health issues.
Dr Inkster and Dr Sule are taking Hip-hop Psych to the Cambridge Festival of Ideas on Monday 20th October 2014. The event will take place at West Road concert hall from 7pm until 9pm. Further information, including details of how to book tickets, can be found here.