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Community singing groups can help mental health problems, research suggests

PUBLISHED: 14:50 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 14:50 21 December 2017

Sing Your Heart Out, King's Lynn. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Sing Your Heart Out, King's Lynn. Photo: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council

Warming up the vocal cords and singing with others can aid recovery from mental illness, new research suggests.

The Sing Your Heart Out volunteer-run group who have benefitted from Comic Relief, in full voice. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Sing Your Heart Out volunteer-run group who have benefitted from Comic Relief, in full voice. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The University of East Anglia (UEA) studied a group of singers in a Norfolk group, and found the activity made people feel valued and increased their confidence.

They found that the Sing Your Heart Out project, which was started by Tracy Morefield more than 10 years ago, had even stopped some from relapsing.

MORE: Sing Your Heart Out wins national award

The UEA team, from the Norwich Medical School, said a six-month study of 20 members of the group found that singing and mixing socially had helped those with serious mental health problems.

And they have now encouraged other areas to consider running community singing groups.

Lead researcher professor Tom Shakespeare described it as a “low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery within the community”.

He said: “We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people’s recovery from mental health problems.

“We heard the participants calling the initiative a life saver and that it saved their sanity. Others said they simply wouldn’t be here without it, they wouldn’t have managed – so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having.”

MORE: How a singing group helped one woman overcome mental health problems

He said all of the participants reported positive effects on mental health, with some using it as a component of a wider programme and others saying it was the “key” to their recovery.

But they were keen to differentiate from choirs, he said, which people sometimes found intimidating.

“The main way that Sing Your Heart Out differs from a choir is that anyone can join in regardless of ability,” he said. “There’s also very little pressure because the participants are not rehearsing towards a performance. It’s very inclusive and it’s just for fun.”

The Sing Your Heart Out initiative started in 2005 at Hellesdon Hospital, before branching out into the community. It has since seen its popularity grow, with groups in Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, Attleborough, Norwich and King’s Lynn and roughly 120 people involved.

It has won awards, including the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

For information, click here.

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