A senior lecturer in Music Therapy at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Dr Katrina McFerran is immersed in a new study that aims to find out why some young people use heavy metal music in a negative way, according to the University’s Newsroom (and note that the URL contains the number “666,” in what is presumably a bizarre coincidence).
By conducting in-depth interviews with 50 young people aged between 13 and 18, along with a national survey of 1,000 young people, Dr McFerran is looking to develop an early intervention model that can be integrated into schools to impact positively before behavioral problems occur.
Maybe things are different Down Under, but one can only imagine what that “model” might look like and how cash-strapped public schools could afford to implement and manage it when textbooks often present a financial obstacle, particularly to Stateside schools.
Anyway, Dr McFerran is quoted as saying: "The mp3 revolution means that young people are accessing music more than ever before and it's not uncommon for some to listen to music for seven or eight hours a day.
"Most young people listen to a range of music in positive ways; to block out crowds, to lift their mood or to give them energy when exercising, but young people at risk of depression are more likely to be listening to music, particularly heavy metal music, in a negative way.
"Examples of this are when someone listens to the same song or album of heavy metal music over and over again and doesn't listen to anything else. They do this to isolate themselves or escape from reality.
"If this behavior continues over a period of time then it might indicate that this young person is suffering from depression or anxiety, and at worst, might suggest suicidal tendencies."
Dr. McFerran said parents should be aware of their children's music listening habits, pick up on early warning signs and take early action.
"If parents are worried, they should ask their children questions like — how does that music make you feel? If children say the music reflects or mirrors the way they feel then ask more about what the music is saying," she said.
"If listening doesn't make them feel good about themselves, this should ring alarm bells. Alternatively, if parents notice a downturn in their child's mood after listening to music this is also a cause for showing interest and getting involved."
OK, to be clear: I think we can all agree that these findings (and they are not conclusions yet by the University’s own admission) raise important issues and parents should be monitoring their kids’ listening habits - and computer habits and eating habits and sleeping habits – for signs of trouble.
But this must be seen in perspective. For one thing, the sample group was small. For another, teens are notorious for obsessing on something for a week before dropping it abruptly and moving on to something else.
Yeah, Slipknot’s music is aggressive and angry but just because Junior is blasting it 24/7 doesn’t necessarily mean he’s struggling with mental illness. Like anything, one hopes parents will take this information with a grain of salt and use it only in the context of a bigger picture.