One of the reasons heavy metal therapy exists is that metal music tends to have more depictions of mental health and extreme states then many other music genres. There’s some evidence that mental health is described differently in metal as well, so possibly ‘re-framed’ as a more positive thing or even celebrated (and if you want a nerd off about if that’s a good or bad thing you should look at the work of Kyle Messick, see the metal university for more details).
This most recent request was for a playlist of songs that reference and possibly reframe ideas of ‘madness’, ‘insanity’, ‘psychosis’ and such, including references to stigma. As always we take requests as ultimately the playlists are built by and belong to you all. This one didn’t turn out quite as I expected, I had imagined mainly overt references to mental health would feature. There’s some of that, but we also got stuff that is more nuanced and complex, with lots of different interpretations of the ‘brief’. This reminds me of how amazing you lot are, as its a very interesting set of songs – quite a grunge vibe in this one. As with many of our playlists, there are some references to extreme states, self-harm and suicidal thoughts so please take care of yourselves around if this is something you feel okay with engaging with.
We will be thinking and writing more about how metal culture describes mental health so watch this space.
The YouTube link for the event we did for hearing voices network is now here! We talk about metal and voices, and reflect on how music of all kinds is related to voice hearing (e.g. As coping, references to voices in lyrics etc). Played a few awesome tunes from Our Hollow Our Home, Motionless in White and Suicidal Tendencies, plus some cool non metal songs.
The hearing voices movement is very important to us as HMT was partly influenced by them and we greatly admire them as an organisation. Thrilled to be part of this event hosted by metal fan Rai Waddingham who is completely inspiring and it’s worth checking her stuff out.
Robin who joined us as a guest also previously made this cool documentary about his experiences with voices, the music is composed by him and has a metal and industrial feel.
For more resources about voice hearing (including a bit about HMT) check out understanding voices, covid 19 web resource on managing voices, and voice collective. We also like this short documentary about ‘the psychosis’ again with a rock themed soundtrack:
We have a few voices related things on here as well including Richard’s story and of course the voices playlist! Soon we will be featured in a book about voices where we have a chapter about the awesome joy of metalcore!!
We love doing events and things to do with voices and voice dialogue, see heavymetaltherapy.co.uk/homegrownhmt for more 😊
We know there are so many things being put out there at the moment about surviving the pandemic (mentally and physically) and the impact of us being in lockdown. So, we won’t bombard you with stuff, this is just a little summary of a few things we’ve done and some helpful links. We will leave this with you in case it is useful. I’m sure that listening to metal is getting lots of us through this time, as it has lots of other times as well 🤘🏻
If you want to interact more with people in the metal community about mental health stuff please check out our metal health moshpit on Facebook
We also produced some playlists together over the lockdown period about quarantine, and to cheer us up a bit, one on completely ridiculous metal songs – see heavymetaltherapy.co.uk/playlists
We have been involved in a couple of podcast and vidoes as well. Some are not related to the lockdown particularly but this video is:
Finally, we know there are lots of links out there of other support things but we thought this one might be particularly interesting for our roadies with lots of resources:
So stay safe, wash hands, stay home etc 😊. Soon we mosh together again 🤘🏻
It’s tough times at the moment, and we try as a community to bring some more light hearted stuff to heavy metal therapy sometimes. Lots of what we do is about some pretty difficult stuff and we don’t want to shy away from that, but we also need a laugh sometimes too!
Heavy metal can be a lot of things – it can evoke strong feelings, be powerfully meaningful to us and resonate with our experiences. But it can also be a bit ridiculous. Here is a collection, as suggested by you guys, of some of the more humerous and frankly ridiculous metal (and metalish) songs. Now these cover dark themes as with all of our playlists, but for this one many also contain ironic/tongue in cheek humour about dark topics, so if you think this might be offensive or upsetting to you then please skip this one.
Guest blog by Sarah Givens
We’ve wanted to do a blog on heavy metal yoga for ages, and were thrilled to discover that we have a metalhead yoga teacher in our midst in the community of heavy metal therapy. Here, Sarah reflects on her experiences running metal yoga classes:
Yoga and Metal
When I first started yoga a gazillion years ago, it was all about peace, calm and relaxation. Leave your stressful day at the door. Forget about your bad mood. Then I started my yoga teacher training a few years back. Nothing had changed, still peace, love and light. Actual rage and anger were never really discussed. Just a ‘let it go’ attitude. And, music was even actively discouraged.
Where there was music in a few classes, you’d be listening to whales, tinkling pianos or a continuous ‘Aum’ or..’floaty yoga shit’ as my husband likes to call it. Nothing at all wrong with any of this of course. I myself have a fine collection of said floaty music downloaded.
But..what if you want to embrace that anger..what if you need to?? Maybe without actually taking it out on anyone or anything? What if you need that safe space? Leave it at the door…it’s just gonna be there waiting when you leave. So why not blast some Metallica, some MCR (for the Emos 😉) ? Why not do some strong, burning leg strength or core work, get annoyed, get it out. Thrash is amazing for balance. A massive blast of noise. Gets you in the zone. And sounds amazing in a massive warehouse gym! The contrast of the music, the grace of the yogis and the clank of the weights is a beautiful thing.
Music, specifically metal, is changing yoga. It is making it more inclusive. It’s helping yoga finally become cool! I see feet tapping and heads nodding in warrior 2. Smiles when favourite tracks come on…even when legs are burning. People leave feeling like they have danced, like they have got rid of a weight, a burdon. Metal and yoga are a perfect pairing. For physical and mental health.
More about Sarah and her classes here: https://m.facebook.com/249711535404939
Sarah is currently doing online yoga classes that you can do from home 😊
Please consider joining our new Facebook group if you fancy some metalhead mental health chat 😊
As requested by you lot, we are starting to put a few videos on YouTube, including this short one about what heavy metal therapy is. Please consider subscribing to our channel as we will add more soon 😊
Very pleased that our friends at Psychreg published one of our guest blogs about the therapeutic benefits of heavy metal. Check it out below:
Of course more heavy metal nerdism is available at our metal university –
We’ve put these together to help explain who we are and what we are about.
1. We all have struggles
We work on the basis that mental health difficulties exist on a continuuum. So everybody has some struggles in life, ranging from the day to day, up to the more extreme. We don’t think there’s necessarily a clear line where you would say that something has become ‘abnormal’ and we probably all move up and down that continuum all the time. We have people who follow hmt who have used services extensively and others who never have and wouldn’t want to. We don’t think that we are a replacement for services, but an addition and/or a forum for any metalhead who has ever struggled with being distressed.
2. Sharing our stories is powerful
We believe that by sharing our stories of how heavy metal music has helped us to manage difficult times we can inspire and help others. The process of sharing and giving that information to others can also be therapeutic in itself. You can read some of our stories at heavymetaltherapy.co.uk/stories
3. We are all equal partners
There are some people who follow and contribute to heavy metal therapy who have professional training, or even are ‘experts’ in heavy metal or mental health. There are some people who contribute who have a lot of lived experience to reflect on. We are all equal in the process and have influence on the project (no one tells anyone else what to do). HMT isn’t professional advice or actual therapy, it’s about sharing resources and experiences. Here’s a blog we wrote about Co production and HMT.
4. Metal helps us process feelings
We consider research about heavy metal music and how engaging with metal might be helpful. We are also aware of the previous damaging stereotypes that came with being a metalhead in the past and the assumption that it was bad for you or even that you were a bad person for liking it. We are particularly interested in the research and theories that suggest that metal can help people to process feelings and engage with challenging parts of themselves in healthy ways. Many people in the community will say how metal saved them, keeps them sane or helped them through a very difficult time.
You can read more about metal research at heavymetaltherapy.co.uk/metal-university
5. All ways of explaining mental health count equally
Some people describe their struggles as being part of a biological illness, some say it is a consequence of life events or wider societal issues, some people may have a spiritual explanation of what’s going on for them. We don’t hold any of these ideas as more or less valid, they all count and we tolerate different perspectives. You may notice that we tend not to use a lot of diagnostic labels and such on here (partly because of point 1) but if you have a diagnosis and find this a helpful way to understand things then we won’t stop you saying it on here! If you are against diagnosis that’s also cool with us. Same goes for perspectives on meds, use of services and what helps you/others. What’s not cool is slagging each other off about different views, that stuff will get moderated.
6. It’s not about money
We are not a business, we’re not even a charity, we don’t formally endorse or support particular charities financially. No one gets paid for running or being involved in HMT. If we ‘make’ any money it goes back into the coffers for awareness raising stuff. If you buy owt off us you are just covering our costs, spreading the word, and looking exceptionally cool by repping our stuff. Some of us have related jobs that are generous enough to support/tolerate our activities but we basically do it for the love of metal. If you want to help that’s cool, but there’s no money. We have some complicated thoughts about mainstream mental health campaigns, one day we might write something about that…..
7. We don’t chase celebrities
Have 100k followers on insta cos you’re in a band and wanna rep us? Cool, thanks, we appreciate it.
Have 3 friends on Facebook and never leave your room and wanna rep us? Cool, thanks, we appreciate it.
Seriously tho, we recognise that most bands and musicians are brands, that promotion of their stuff is important to them, it adds a sometimes uncomfortable spin on things for us. We don’t want to compromise any of our values to get someone famous to support us (that’s not the same as if they choose to, as we said, we appreciate it). But… HMT was not formed for or by celebrities, we are by ‘ordinary’ metalheads for all metalheads.
8. No trolling bands/genres
Look, we all know that person who only listens to progressive depressive grindcore or whatever. A lot of metal forums seem to consist of people trolling each other about ‘real metal’. We like to cater to most tastes, we even adopt a degree of genre flexibility on the playlists and stuff we share. If someone shares something that they like, and it’s personal to them, they put themselves out there (and as you might imagine we are all about respecting vulnerability). Therefore we will not tolerate anyone being mean about their choices and we do moderate that stuff quite strictly. If you want to see more features about stuff you like, more extreme metal for example, share it with us, we will put it out there.
9. We go tats out, always
Most metalheads will be familiar with the idea of being judged on their appearance. It’s a bit complicated this, because lots of us also feel that looking a particular way is a core part of our ‘metal identity’. Tattoos are often part of this, (see this part of our website for more) as are band shirts/battle vests/long hair. We get invited to speak and stuff sometimes, or represent HMT from an academic or professional standpoint, but we think it’s important to be genuine in our metal identities as well. So we go tats out, doesn’t matter where or what we are doing, because that’s who we are.
10. Always double knot in a mosh pit.
Finally, we ask you to take care of yourselves and each other out there – in the mosh pit, and also more generally. So as far as HMT is concerned please heed the trigger warnings, remember it’s sweary and contains dark themes and please be supportive of each other. We are not a substitute for services/actual therapy and are not crisis support, we might be able to point you to such places but it’s up to you guys to take responsibility for if you take that up. We moderate things accordingly if needed…..
See this blog about having a great time in a mosh pit, which is also where we nicked that phrase from 🤘🏻
Some people will tell you that having a new born child is a great time, 100% wonderful and that you are lucky.
That’s… that’s not the whole truth.
When you have a child you lose time, sleep and routine. Even the most fearless person is now terrified for the future and there is a surprising amount of competitive judgement. The things you used to do are not beyond you but there are restrictions. Depression, anxiety, suicide and even homicide are a higher risk within the first few years of parenting. With a child you hit the ground running. Nothing fully prepares you because every child is different. When that baby takes its first breath you are no longer who you were, you are someone else.
Okay quick disclaimer that the point of this little rant isn’t to put people off having children. It’s to highlight that having children changes and challenges you in ways you are rarely told about. It’s not all bad, quite the contrary. Parents get to see a factory fresh human being experience everything for the first time. You become a teacher, a nurse a butler an expert crisis manager and an entertainer. It’s awesome because you learn things and do things you have never considered before. Its stressful because to be all these things you need to shift your own identity and you run the risk of losing it completely.
The normal reaction to a sudden loss of identity and feeling vulnerable is to attempt to return to a previous self. This clumsy attempt never ends well and can be disruptive to growth. Brene Brown calls this the birthplace of creativity but acknowledges that it’s a time that we feel our most vulnerable. What is accepted as best practice is to sit with the experience of loss and change. Grieve but plan ahead. Adapt and survive. This is difficult to do and takes time. We often “relapse” and attempt to revisit who we were, and that’s okay so long as we eventually advance to a new self. In this metalhead’s opinion you need multiple identities to be a parent and you need to keep shifting between these identities for your own wellbeing.
“I watched a change in you. Its like you never had wings. And you feel so alive”
-Deftones. Change in the House of Flies.
I have had a chaotic life with few actual constants and have had to be so many different people to survive. Metal has woven thread-like through each and every one of my identities for as long as I can remember. Ben the child had AC/DC blasting on his drive to school. Angry Ben the teenager had Slipknot getting him through his A-Levels. Ben the student howled along to Korn at the Kambar in Cambridge and Ben the psych nurse was still writing care plans in his head while watching Rage Against the Machine at Download. As long as I have it I can endure change. Almost like a faith.
Ben the father needed metal. It was something familiar. Something that in the past had been a constant. When my daughter was born I made a conscious effort to hold on to it and incorporate it into my parenting style.
It started prenatal. I played metal to my daughter when she was in the womb. Worked too, Devin Townsend’s March of the Poozers could put her to sleep when she was new born. As she was mobile we had dance time and for that we would spin around the room to System, Machinehead and Foo Fighters. I play metal in the car instead of lame ass nursery rhymes about the plague or kings eating pie. I also sing to her my own acapella versions of Nirvana and System of a Down. It’s rare that I get to gig’s but when I do they are more exiting. I’m even planning to take her to the surprisingly child friendly Bloodstock next year.
Total side-track but; AC/DC is really easy for kids to get into. Lyrically the composition of AC/DC songs are similar to nursery rhymes and the song title repeated is often the chorus.
I also infuse in my daughter the values that I find in metal. She is told she is pretty, but more importantly she is told that being strong, kind, brave and picking herself and others up is important. I let her cry, scream and feel angry but then reflect on why and vocalise what upsets her because that’s what metal lets me do.
Metal has been a familiar thing to help me transition to new identities. Metal has been inspiration and a medium for my child’s development.
Metal is awesome.
Ben Ryan BSc Mental Health Studies, ex nurse RMN and changer of nappies.