From its roots in rap, graffiti, DJing and breakdancing in the Bronx borough of New York in the 1970s, hip-hop has grown to become a global cultural and commercial powerhouse. But now UK researchers believe they have found a new use for it: as a treatment for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression.
The group says that hip-hop provides individuals with a sense of empowerment and self-knowledge that could be exploited to help people tackle their own psychological problems. There is an intrinsic awareness of issues connected with mental health in many forms of hip-hop art, it is argued.
To help promote the idea, neuroscientist Becky Inkster, of Cambridge University department of psychiatry, and consultant psychiatrist Akeem Sule, of the South Essex Partnership Trust, have formed Hip Hop Psych– which they describe as a social venture – to promote the use of hip-hop as an aid to the treatment of mental illness. Inkster and Sule will outline the ideas behind Hip Hop Psych next week at the University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas.
“There is so much more to hip-hop than the public realises,” said Inkster. “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.”
Uses of hip-hop envisaged by Inkster and Sule include having patients write and rap their own lyrics as part of their therapy. It is also proposed that hip-hop could be used in teaching medical students about psychiatric illnesses.