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Hip-Hop Inspires Doctors to Treat Mental Illness Differently

Daniel Boczarski, Redferns / David Wolff-Patrick, Redferns

It looks like Lupe Fiasco was onto something in 2007, when he started rapping, “Hip-hop saved my life.” And while he may have been ahead of his time seven years ago, Pharrell Williams backed him up last year when he let everyone know just how ‘Happy’ people can be while listening to some good hip-hop. So now it seems like the genre is helping doctors treat mental illnesses.

According to The Guardian, doctors in the United Kingdom think “they have found a new use for [hip-hop]: as a treatment for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression.”

Two researchers — neuroscientist Becky Inkster of Cambridge University’s department of psychiatry, and consultant psychiatrist Akeem Sule of the South Essex Partnership Trust — have started Hip Hop Psych, a “social venture” that focuses on the use of hip-hop to tackle extreme mental illness. As a form of therapy, Inkster and Sule ask their patients to write out lyrics describing where they hope to see themselves in the future.

“There is so much more to hip-hop than the public realises [sic],” Inkster said while reminiscing on her relationship to the music genre. “I grew up in the ’90s during the golden era of hip-hop, when it exploded into mainstream culture. It is rich in references to psychiatric illnesses that have not been properly explored, and which could be of enormous benefit to patients. We want to work with rappers, charities, medical groups and others to promote its real potential.”

Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ is just one of the songs highlighted by Hip Hop Psych for their potential use in the understanding of mental illness.

Moving forward, both are hopeful to see the use of hip-hop as a psychiatric treatment taught in medical schools.

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