“Music can change the way you feel, it can make you smile, it can make you cry, it can tell you a story...”
We continue to celebrate Children's Mental Health Awareness week 2021, with a theme of Express Yourself. Here we revisit a profile of one of our ward musicians to see how music is making a difference to mental health inpatients at Alder Hey thanks to your donations.
Most of you will have heard us talk about the importance of connecting with children and their families, helping them deal with the challenges of illness and hospital life. We caught up with Georgina Aasgaard, cellist at the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Arts for Health practitioner, about her work at the Dewi Jones Unit, our mental health inpatient facility.
Georgina explains “I have delivered music sessions at Dewi Jones for quite a few years and since January 2020, we have had weekly sessions. The consistency of the weekly sessions has really helped to build a relationship with the young people. From week to week, we make plans together. Each patient has a notebook; these can be used to write lyrics for a song, do some research on musicians or simply keep a record of the sessions. All sessions are child led, meaning that every week has a sense of adventure. In both individual and group sessions there seems to be a bit of a pattern: a time for listening and a time for creating. The basis of my work in mental health units is to highlight within a group situation how one same piece of music can mean something different to every single one of us and somehow affect us in a direction which is our own and which is never right or wrong.”
Children at the unit have individual timetables and care plans meaning that group sessions provide opportunity for the children to come together around a meaningful activity, share feelings and collaborate.
Some of the ways that music can support our mental health patients include helping them to feel trusted and valued in a non-judgmental environment and being given the space, time and “permission” to have an opinion. It provides a sense of ownership whilst they develop new skills and enjoy learning and discovering new possibilities and ideas. The sessions, both individual and in groups, help the children to develop social their social skills and emotional resilience.
Georgina explains how the individual sessions are also useful in helping children to integrate with their peers.
“The one to one sessions can offer a “special time out” for the children who may be struggling in a group situation. This personal space and time often helps the child to be able to join the group at a later stage.”
Many of us will turn to music to help us relax, listening to our favourite songs and looking back a year or so, attending live music events. We talked to Georgina about the power of live music and the effect it has both or our wards and at the Dewi Jones Unit.
“By just walking on a ward with a cello and a trolley filled with percussion instruments, young people gather that I’m bringing something different, something non-judgmental, non-medical. The live sound of music on a ward can create a point of focus, it brings people together, we build trust, have fun and keep a sense of play.”
We often hear from staff in the hospital that the sound of the musicians playing, or howls of laughter coming from rooms when patients are creating comics with Comics Youth, can totally change the mood and lift everyone’s spirits.
We were interested to hear how young patients respond to the classical music that Georgina plays on her cello.
“When listening to music, young people seem to respond positively to the sound of live classical music offering a platform for discussions around imagery, storytelling and inner feelings and emotions. Live music without words has the potential to open up so many different emotions; it can bring back memories, take you to another place, in an instant it can change the way you feel, it can make you smile, it can make you cry, it can tell you a story.”
Collaborations that we have heard Georgina affectionately introduce to the children as “jam sessions” and “our band” are always led intuitively to the needs of the group. Watching Georgina use changes in the speed and volume of the music to flow with the needs of the participants is powerful and unique to participatory live music, just like each child’s journey is unique.
Georgina sums up some of the main benefits of the sessions by saying
“When creating music, children have an opportunity to explore different instruments, experimenting different textures, expressing feelings through different colours of sounds, finding their place in a group composition, listening to others and taking turns. My main aim in the music sessions is to find ways of connecting and communicating with the young people, listen to them and cater for their creativity in the best possible way.”
Your donations have allowed us to continue to fund Arts for Health sessions, adapted for social distancing. Georgina continues to provide virtual sessions for the Dewi Jones Unit and has recorded a special concert from her home that we also broadcast to TVs in patients’ bedrooms in our hospital.
Thank you for helping us to provide Arts for Health, supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our brave, young patients.