Blue notes: a pilot RCT using songwriting to alleviate student mental health and wellbeing

Gee, K. (2018) Blue notes: a pilot RCT using songwriting to alleviate student mental health and wellbeing. In: UNSPECIFIED, ed. British Association for Music Therapy: Music Diversity and Wholeness. London 2018. Book of Abstracts. 24-27 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PD: British Association for Music Therapy. ISBN 0 - 85513-019-9

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Higher Education is a period of transition where individuals try out identities, develop new skills, and a sense of self. Increasing evidence suggests a growth of mental distress students, pressurising in-house support schemes.

Therapeutic songwriting is a music therapy technique which can reduce mental distress and improve social engagement in a range of populations. Yet songwriting is also an accessible art form beyond clinical settings, potentially an ideal vehicle for supporting students in distress.

This paper aims to understand whether participation in a weekly songwriting program could help lower distress and improve wellbeing in new students.

We used a parallel wait-list RCT design. Participants (n=12) self-identifying as stressed, anxious, or depressed with a pre-existing mental health condition were randomly allocated to the experimental group (5 weeks songwriting) or to the wait-list control group (5 weeks no intervention). Measures were taken at baseline, and the start and end of the intervention. Measures included: depression and anxiety scales, social identification, loneliness, friendship. Trial registration: ISRCTN11180007.

Change scores were calculated and a Mann Whitney U revealed that depression levels in songwriters (Mdn = -1.0) differed significantly from wait-list controls (Mdn = 8.5) at time two, U = 5.00, z = -2.085, p < .041, r = 2.66. Songwriters levels of social connection (Mdn = 2.50) also differed significantly from wait-list controls (Mdn = 3.00) at T2 U =3.00 , Z= -2.441 , P<.015, r= 0.524. There were no other significant differences between control and intervention groups.

Conclusions: A songwriting intervention appears to effect mental distress and wellbeing of a student population who self-identify as stressed anxious or depressed or who have entered university with a pre-existing mental health difficulty.This is in line with clinical studies showing therapeutic songwriting can support change in identity. Effects seem to be centred around depression and social connection, which may impact not only on individual's lives, but on student retention, and potentially on institutional change in mental health support provision. Although the results are promising, and this work provides the basis for future larger scale studies, caution must be applied to the findings due to the sample size.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Songwriting; intervention; depression; anxiety; RCT
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0636 Applied psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Depositing User: Dr Kate Gee
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2018 09:32
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2018 15:12

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00