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Improving mental health through music

The therapeutic power of those melodious tunes
Improving mental health through music
Posted at 7:39 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 14:28:45-04

APPLETON (NBC26) — Whether it's a rock cover or a classical Baroque piece, the art of music can help people struggling with mental health issues.

“There’s something about music that connects us," said Jim Collar, who sits on the board of directors for the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. "It’s a form of communication unlike any other."

People jammed out to live music performed by Star Six Nine, an Oshkosh-based rock, pop and country cover band, Thursday at Jones Park as part of the Heid Music Summer Concert Series.

Jason Wianecki, base player & singer with Star Six Nine, said the band has been playing live concerts nearly every weekend this summer. Wianecki said he missed performing in front of an audience during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just a great release from every day normal," Wianecki said. "We all have day jobs, so this is a great way to get out there and have some fun, and not think about all the little things that are going on every day.”

Collar said music allows people to communicate not only through words, but sounds as well. He said the ups and downs of the song or piece can often convey more emotion than having a conversation with family or friends.

“It opens up the opportunity to connect with people on some very deep issues in ways that you may not be successful through other modes of communication," Collar said. "It’s something that you can build from. You learn one chord, and then you turn that into a chord progression, and then you turn that into a song and every step of the way there’s some satisfaction that comes with that.”

Hannah Keesler, a licensed professional counselor at Samaritan Counseling Center in Menasha, said getting involved in an activity that develops certain skill sets, like music, can be a positive coping mechanism.

“There’s something to be said about always learning, and developing, and gaining mastery in something that can boost our confidence and help us feel really good in all areas of life," Keesler said.

A recent CDC study shows about 30 percent of U.S. adults are struggling with anxiety and depression. Data recorded in June 2020 shows 26 percent of adults reported stress related symptoms, while 13 percent said they started or had increased substance abuse. More than 10 percent of adults surveyed reported serious thoughts of suicide as a result of the pandemic.

Keesler said these are areas the center has seen a big increase in.

“A lot of mental health has been impacted, because it’s truly a global calamity, all ages, everyone’s impacted in some way," she said.

In addition to skill development, such as gardening or even skateboarding, Keesler said it's important to have a strong support system. She said people should also take breaks from daily life, whether it be through physical exercise or social opportunities.

Keesler said parents should keep children on dependable routines and include time for social activities.

“We’ve put a lot of emphasis already on mental health. I’ve seen people really start to take it more seriously with some of the outcomes that we’re noticing from COVID-19," Keesler said. "So moving forward I encourage people to really think about taking care of themselves. The best thing you can do for your family and your community is to prioritize yourself, finding resources to help you, because if everyone really adapts that mindset we can all really grow and be healthy.”

Samaritan Counseling Center offers a variety of mental health services for the community. People can call 920-886-9319 to set up an appointment or speak to a client service specialist.