How music and Kpop stars BTS helped Canadians’ mental health in the pandemic

An important aspect of music therapy is community building. And community is something BTS fans know all about.

Music has helped people's mental health in the pandemic Unsplash

During the pandemic, many Canadians suffered from some form of mental health issue, whether it was depression, anxiety, addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some turned to music therapy to help them find a way through.

Music therapy is a process where “musical interventions are used clinically to achieve individualized goals,” according to the American Music Therapy Association. This is primarily done in a therapeutic environment with an accredited professional, such as a music therapist, and these musical interventions might include singing, listening to, creating or moving to music, the AMTA says.

Music therapy has been used to treat various ailments including mental illnesses, stress, and pain, and to improve communication and promote physical rehabilitation. 

“When it comes to music therapy, one of the main aspects or parameters for the session is community building,” says Lesley Bouza, an accredited music therapist. “I have seen people who have met each other, and the only thing they have in common is their taste in music, which they later used to achieve their personal and individual goals.”

The history of music therapy

Music therapy was started unofficially during The Second World War when local musicians would go to military hospitals to play for veterans. With evidence of progress in both physical and emotional responses among the veterans, hospitals began hiring musicians. Thus, the need for training professionals and developing a worldwide curriculum grew, resulting in the accreditation of music therapists.

According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, Canada’s first music therapy training program was founded in 1976, at Capilano College (now Capilano University) in North Vancouver, by Nancy McMaster and Carolyn Kenny.

While people can find it challenging or may not have the means to reach out for a professional’s help, science has proven that music naturally helps people enhance their moods. The brain functions differently while listening to music, releasing “happy” hormones and quickly changing the momentum of a person’s surroundings.

Happy hormones are a set of five different hormones released by our body when doing certain activities such as exercising or listening to music. These hormones, such as dopamine and oxytocin, instantly boost our mood and make us feel good.

Community is key to music’s therapeutic effects

Bouza says that community is a very important part of the music therapy process. “A fanbase counts as a community and when you meet people through something that you have in common, you tend to open up more towards them and that’s where people start socializing and being vocal about how they can help each other through their interests.”

Enter the BTS Army.

BTS, the globally popular KPop group, has a massive following of fans who call themselves the BTS Army. They connect through various fan pages across various social media platforms. This community has often come together to acknowledge social justice issues and raise funds for various movements such as Black Lives Matter. And not only do people connect to each other through the music they love, but the group uses their music to support their fanbase.

“During the pandemic, most people felt unmotivated and had a sense of loneliness,” Areesha Fatima, a high school student, and a BTS fan says, “I did too. But listening to music made me forget about my worries and just enjoy the moment. It (music) is like a remedy for unseen wounds.”

During the pandemic, BTS’ popularity increased due to their lyrics about self-love and fighting various mental illnesses, such as Life Goes On.

“The kind of lyrics that BTS puts out are the kind that today’s youth needs to hear. It’s no wonder that so many of their followers belong to the younger generation and look up to them as their ambassadors of music”, says Ayesha Noorien, a music enthusiast and an active member of the BTS Army.

She says the music from BTS helped her go through some major family issues as the lyrics reassured her and gave her a sense of hope. “It’s really fascinating when you think of it that you can actually find the strength to go on in such situations through some music. I find it hard to find that (strength) in other artists.”

In September 2018, BTS became the first Korean Pop music group to address the United Nations. The band spoke about overcoming insecurities and pushed the younger generation to do the same during their address.

“I believe that not everybody needs songs about love and break-ups. Some of us are just struggling with homework and assignments and life. BTS has songs that make us feel enough, make us feel like we aren’t lagging in the world,” Fatima says when talking about the band’s lyrics.

Bouza says listening to music you love — BTS or otherwise — is a form of therapy if it helps you in difficult situations.

“I think the success of the band’s music is just a reminder of how everyone has their thing to help them get through, and for some, it is pop music. It is significant to them, influential in their lives, and goes to show how music is meaningful in its own way,” she says.

“People have been using music as therapy for a long time. When you look at history, people have been using music to grieve, celebrate, entertain and also express feelings among many other things. This goes to show that music has been an integral part of our lives.”

About this article

Posted: Oct 10 2021 11:31 am
Filed under: News