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August 9, 2021 35 min

Music, identity and mental illness: Using music to arouse empathy for and between identity groups such as abled and disabled people (people with severe mental illness).

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) stated that it 'is seriously concerned about the inequalities in terms of physical health and life expectancy of people with serious mental illness'. People with serious mental illness live, typically, between 10 and 25 years less than the general population. Around 80% of this higher mortality rate can be attributed to the much higher rates of physical illnesses, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancer experienced by this population (RANZCP 2015). Although there has been improvement in general social acceptance of mental conditions such as anxiety and low mood, significant stigma and discrimination toward people with severe mental illness persist, which affects their employment, housing, health care and personal relationships. They also feel less accepted and supported by family and friends, making them more likely to conceal their mental health status to avoid stigma or discrimination. This means people with serious mental illness are less likely to seek much needed social contact, support and access to mental health support networks. Increasing public acceptance is an important first step to improving their mental health outcomes.

Can the association of music with mental illness change perceptions about people with mental illness? Can music transcend group identity by encouraging empathy between individuals in different groups, including people with disability?

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