This week, my interest was piqued and eyebrows raised by an online petition calling for the UK government to consider making singing available on prescription. Now, it could be argued that the UK government has bigger fish to fry at the moment, what with Brexit and all… but let’s not go down that rabbit hole or we’ll be here all day.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that singing is a cure for all ills – it clearly isn’t – but there is an overwhelming amount of research to suggest that it’s an extremely useful tool when used as part of a total care package. For example, we know that singing has a positive effect on people with Parkinson’s, dementia, lung disease, anxiety, depression, and even social issues such as loneliness. What’s not to love?
Of course, the easiest way for people to people singing is to join a choir. (Did you know nearly 3 million Brits now sing in choirs? That was unheard of outside of choral societies as little as ten years ago)! They work on so many levels, including getting people out of the house, exercising the old grey matter, exercising the body itself, improving breathing, lowering stress levels and raising your happy hormones among many other benefits. If you’re a singing teacher, running your own choir is a no-brainer – and even better if you write your own arrangements and tailor the music to the needs of your particular members! I run a huge choir, and am constantly amazed at how much it means to the members. At first, I thought that it was just ‘having a bit of a sing once a week’ but it turns out that it’s so much more than that – it literally transforms lives (not just my choir of course, I’m sure they all do)!
It’s also been shown that people singing in groups form bonds more quickly than the norm, so if you’re organising corporate ‘team building’ events and you’ve been sending your employees white water rafting you might want to try sending them to a singing workshop…
But what about people who would find it difficult to function in a ‘normal’ choir? If you’ve got a debilitating illness it might be way too much to try to function as part of a large group of able-bodied people, so what do you do then? Singing on your own, whilst enjoyable, doesn’t bring with it any of the benefits of singing with others, and you might not know how to approach it in such a way as to alleviate your symptoms. That’s where a properly-led singing-for-health group might come in very useful. They exist in all kinds of formats all over the country, with some specialising in particular illnesses or conditions. Given the huge range of health benefits on physical, mental and emotional levels, might it not be a good idea for GPs to be able at least to refer their patients to groups like this? With that in mind: dear reader, I signed the petition – not because I think that ‘singing on prescription’ is going to be brought into law any time soon, but because perhaps we could at least start discussing it as a form of treatment that has genuine benefits for those with chronic health problems.
At The Voice College we have a unique course that trains people to be Sing 4 Health Practitioners – that is, to lead their own local groups, working with people with a range of physical, mental health or emotional problems via a form of what amounts to therapy through singing. You don’t need to be a singing teacher to train to be a Sing 4 Health Practitioner, but you do need to love singing, and want to help people through music. The course lasts for three months and runs three times a year. At the time of writing, the next one starts on March 5th so if this is something that you’re interested in, you still have time to apply! You’ll find all of the details here on our website.
You might also be interested to watch the Penny Lecture given at Morley College in January by Professor Grenville Hancox, in which he puts the case for singing on prescription, and launches the petition.
And if you’re interested in some of the research about singing and health, have a look here:
So… who’s up for that team building event? 😁