Submitted by Kate Quinn and Heavy Metal Therapy
Online Community Psychology projects for people in alternative subcultures can be effective sources of peer support and promote community action.
Heavy Metal Therapy Can:
Provide a forum for support and discussion for listeners who may be struggling with mental health.
Improve understanding by sharing ideas and research about the role of metal music in emotional processing.
Contribute to academic and clinical practice discussions about the well-being impact of engagement with heavy music.
People needing mental health support often engage with music. Online music communities can provide much needed peer support, especially in the context of the global pandemic and where community members may be dispersed (or where membership is not related to geographical location). There has been a negative connotation associated with preferences for extreme music and membership of the heavy metal subculture, particularly around suicide, ‘delinquency’ and violence. Our project highlights that many metal fans describe an opposite impact of the scene and music; that is a calming effect and other benefits for wellbeing. Some people may feel alienated by mainstream mental health and wellness campaigns which sometimes focus on distraction-based strategies towards ‘positive thinking’. Our project supports the role of emotion-focused coping including turning towards intense and possibly challenging feelings.
Heavy metal music fans may be regarded as a marginalized or even targeted group, yet many people in the community describe it as supportive and welcoming.
We are a group of experts by experience and experts by training (sometimes both) who all like heavy metal music and think that it can be beneficial for mental well-being. Our project is mainly online where we share stories of recovery, build playlists together, write blogs, and engage in academic activities regarding the mental health benefits of heavy metal music. Over the past 2.5 years, we have built up a peer support community over social media where we discuss the therapeutics of metal and provide a supportive environment.
We engage in community action by:
- Increasing awareness of mental health related issues and Community Psychology ideas in the metal scene.
- Challenging pre-conceptions around metal fans and the mental health impact of engagement with extreme music (traditionally seen as negative for mental health).
- Contributing to user-led research in the area.
How Did A Community Psychology Perspective Inform Your Work?
The principles of the community, of equal partnership of all members including influencing the direction of the project is related to the idea of citizen participation. We believe in empowerment within the metal community (as a potentially marginalized sub-culture), and the power and resources within the community to support each other.
We have not yet made formal attempts to evaluate the impact of the project as it has been a process of organic growth from an initial collection of recovery stories. However, feedback suggests that community members find validation, support and wellbeing benefits from engagement with the project. In the future, we hope to invite community members to contribute to more formal research on why engagement with metal music may have mental health benefits.