Mental Health Awareness week – and the movies.

This week was Mental Health Awareness week in the UK. Here is a short article on the power of music and movies in helping mental wellbeing.

Awareness of Mental Health issues is now increasing worldwide (about time) and while I’m not fully qualified to talk about all the issues, I felt the urge to write a few words about the power of art to heal – or at least to help you on to road to healing.

Google Batman v Superman reviews.  Go on. I dare you. Click on it. Feel the hate flow through you.

Even if you don’t like the film, the hatred is something else. One review even suggests that either the characters needed therapy, or indeed that YOU as the viewer would need therapy at the end of it.

Funny thing is, there are incidences online of people writing about how the storyline of the film, and the film itself, have benefitted them, helping them through difficult times.  One detailed example can be found here: https://cinemacure.wordpress.com/2017/09/30/zack-snyders-dc-films-helped-people-overcome-depression-suicidal-thoughts-read-their-stories-here/.

The message I perceived in the film is the poisoning effect of trauma or grief, the seemingly endless tunnel of isolation and the internalisation of despair into other emotions which struck me on first viewing and resonates still. That Batman/Bruce manages to escape that tunnel by accepting what’s past, ignoring the false constructs that held him back is uplifting. That the film ends with a horrible sacrifice, more sadness and despair, yet can affirm the need for a team and on a positive hopeful note, is emboldening. Of course, I still thrill at the closing shot of the soil on the coffin rising.

Yes, for some that tone, the multi-layered nature of the script, that subtext, that imagery put them off. Fair enough. But not me.

Paranorman.

A film that helped me at a time of grief is ParaNorman. Yup, Laika’s funny, sad, poignant story of a boy who sees dead people and yet manages to turn it around, save the town, and help a tortured spirit find some sense of peace gave me a kind of calm acceptance that wise words and hugs couldn’t (although they helped too). The soundtrack for that film, by Jon Brion, is melancholy yet warm and hopeful at heart.

Man of Steel original soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.

On the subject of soundtracks, Man of Steel is one of my favourites. I’ve often got it playing when doing paperwork. Sometimes to deliberately drown out background noise. Sometimes to BE the background noise. It sure helps you get psyched!

Recently though, I’ve noticed something else: after a stressful day, I’ve discovered that the soundtrack doesn’t just get me pumped up or excited – it calms me down. It helps disengage from whatever was clouding my view. It helps me take a breath, and that helps me clear the way to hopefully enjoy the rest of the evening.

Am I saying that Hans Zimmer is in the mindfulness/wellbeing business? If course not. Am I saying he’s the only composer that does wonders with music? Of course not. Am I saying that music (or art or the movies for that matter) are a solution to mental health issues, or the key to mental wellbeing?  No.  But it’s my go-to soundtrack for that reason. (And of course, it’s a cracking soundtrack to the movie). The unearthly quality of some of the tracks, the thundering drums, the delicate beauty, the quiet grandeur.

That soundtrack on the car journey home can really help me decompress after a tough day – and we take the help where we get it, right?

For more information on Mental Health Awareness, visit http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/scotland.

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