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I Created a Music and Storytelling Podcast to Promote Good Mental Health

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Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

When I was early in my mental health journey 40 years ago, I would journal as a means of self-expression and to let out all of the post-adolescent angst that was pent up inside. These feelings were a result of having a mental health challenge which was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder type 1 with psychotic features. During these days, I had no one to talk to about what I was going through, with the exception of the counselors and psychiatrists who attempted to help me manage my condition. And I had little, if any, interest in speaking to them.

But I found solace in listening to music. Music has always been one of my primary “go-to” self-care tools. All I needed to do was put on an album or cassette (and eventually CD and mp3) and let the music do its work. I was able to let the music soothe me in a way that nothing else could.

I was able to gain a semblance of stability, enough that I graduated with my undergraduate degree in broadcasting. While in college I worked at the college radio station, 91.3 FM WBNY as well as at a Buffalo-area reggae club, Rude Boys Roots Rock Cafe.

When I graduated, I got hired at a local recording studio but after about four months there, my life took a major shift. Facing the prospect of another hospitalization due to my non-compliance with my treatment plan (I was using illicit drugs and drinking) I made the decision to get into a 12-step program. This has been the single most important decision I’ve ever made. I was able to find the stability I had always hoped for.

Eventually, I went back to school to pursue addiction counseling and later again to earn my master’s degree. But music was still a big part of my life. I even helped form a group of friends who would hold what we called “Vinyl Night,” where we’d listen to records and regale each other with stories of concerts as well as the artists we were into.

Music in its various forms has been known to promote good mental health. Whether it be formal music therapy or simply listening to a playlist, most people will tell you that they have certain songs that connect with them mentally and emotionally.

I reentered the world of mental health advocacy and behavioral health treatment in 2008 and have focused my efforts in a variety of ways, including as a Mental Health First Aid instructor.

Most recently, I was sharing my own songs on Facebook, telling my own stories and sharing videos from YouTube. But then, a friend and PR professional suggested that I create a podcast. My first reaction was, “I can’t do that! There’s all of the equipment, not to mention the time it takes to produce them.” But I thought about it further and remembered someone who could help me on this end. So, I reached out to him and asked him to help. He said that he was actually interested in a mental health-related project. I even was able to connect with the Buffalo NPR station, 88.7 FM WBFO.

The concept would be to invite guests on the podcast and have conversations with them about the music that lifts their spirits, whether it be during difficult times or when they’re celebrating. I decided to call it “Mental Health Verses.” Since I play the guests’ music, it’s available only on Spotify, but I really wanted to be able to connect the music with the story. The ability to hear the melody, lyrics and rhythm combined with the storytelling allows the listener to truly get a sense of where each guest is coming from and make an empathetic connection. The guests come from diverse backgrounds with a variety of musical tastes.

It’s amazing how much fun it is. It’s taking the two things that I am passionate about and combining them in a way that both raises awareness about mental health and is entertaining at the same time. So, check it out. If you’re into these things, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

Originally published: May 21, 2021
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