Can Hip-Hop Help Treat Mental Illness?

Hip-hop has long been a vessel for social change, and now it may also be help contribute to mental health. According to The Guardian, a Cambridge University neuroscience researcher is attempting to connect the dots between rap lyrics and mental stability.

Beck Inkster, and her partner psychiatrist Akeem Sule believe that hip-hop can be used to treat mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression. Citing the genre’s background in “deprived urban areas,” Inkster and Sule credit hip-hop with helping to increase self-awareness.

“There is so much more to hip-hop than the public realises,” Inkster said. “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.”

Starting a social venture called Hip Hop Psych, Inkster and Sule plan to use hip-hop in therapeutic exercises for their patients, such a writing and rapping lyrics as a way to effectively express their emotions. They also plan to study the genre’s origins, specific artists such as Eminem and songs like Pharrell’s “Happy.”

“Hip-hop in general, and rap in particular, often carry messages that are much more complex than is generally appreciated,” added Inkster. “That makes it an ideal medium for helping individuals understand their psychological problems and for finding ways to deal with them.”

Inkster and Sule will present their Hip Hop Psych program on Oct. 20 at the Cambridge Festival Of Ideas.