Criticisms and evaluation:
Inevitably, criticisms for the research regarding music’s therapeutic values in regards to mental health have emerged. Predominantly the issue is the small sample size, or the lack of diversity of the sample. Naturally, preferable conditions would consist of a control group, the group of participants, and within both of those groups, a wide range of ages, ethnicities and both genders,and varying socioeconomic classes. This is quite a difficult feat to orchestrate however, so it is likely that we will have to rely upon smaller, more limited studies, and subsequently piece together conclusions from a collation of all the evidence. Despite this, this does not render the data invalid, or without use; on the contrary. The evidence though small, shows such demonstrable results, that they cannot be dismissed. The lack of negatives with musical treatments also means that there are less barriers for conducting tests. Ethics are generally not an issue, consent is equally not particularly a problem, and there aren’t any worrying physiological after-effects to be concerned about. As such, despite the limited support and funding that research into musical treatments receives, I believe it to be vital that we expand the research as much as possible, for the greatest possible benefit to both society, and the individual.
Music, culture, and mental health:
One observation of our Western culture and the resulting effects upon our health, is that we have, ‘impoverished access to musical participation through performance, even though evidence in Western contexts is beginning to reveal the important social, musical, and personal benefits simple activities such as group singing can afford,’ (Davidson, 2006). It is an irrefutable truth that, despite being cheap to instigate and run, there are very few musical initiatives, especially for those who are most vulnerable within society, i.e the homeless, disabled, and the mentally ill. This may be in part due to a lack of populated evidence for success, but also probably as a result of lack of funding, and lack of care for the general public. Sadly, pharmaceutical companies dominate the medicinal market, with their solitary focus upon profit, rather than helping the patient. Doctors will often support these companies and prescribe chemotherapy because it often displays quick ‘results,’ or more ‘demonstrable’ results, whereas with a more alternative therapy such as music therapy, results cannot be so easily seen or measured. Indeed, patients often want a ‘quick-fix’ and feel like they will be ‘cured’ if they are handed medication, whereas a non-tangible treatment can seem a fallacy, a joke; patients may wrongly interpret that they are not being taken seriously. However, patients are often ill-informed, if informed at all, as to the potential side-effects of drug treatments. These effects are not to be taken lightly; serious drug addictions and life-altering physical complications such as kidney failure (in extreme cases) can occur.
Arguably, though a ‘developed’ country, we have lower levels of happiness, satisfaction and overall mental health than far more impoverished countries, e.g South Africa, Nigeria, etc. ‘It seems that African cultural opportunities are rich in artistic practises that offer psychological needs, satisfaction and wellbeing through active participation,’ (Davidson, 2006); the African culture in so many ways contrasts our own; music is an inherent and integral part; communities frequently and regularly engage in singing, dancing, and creating music together. Undeniably, this will strengthen the sense of community, but also will be activating all regions of the brain, and releasing Dopamine and Serotonin, thus reducing stress levels and enhancing all aspects of both physiological and psychological wellbeing. Equally, no funding induces this behaviour, and yet, the efficacy of the engagement is instantaneously evident. It seems clear that musical participatory activities could be readily implemented at a very minimal cost within our own society for substantial benefit.