YOUNG VOICES

Can Hip-Hop Music Help Combat Depression? Cambridge University Experts Think So..

11/11/2014 14:44 GMT | Updated 11/11/2014 14:59 GMT

The Notorious BIG, Tupac and Grandmaster Flash don't sound like your everyday psychiatrists. But, according to experts at a leading university, songs from these hip-hop artists can help alleviate depression.

Juicy, by The Notorious BIG, and The Message, by Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five, are just two of the songs used by researchers at Cambridge University to help tackle issues surrounding mental health.

Hip-Hop Psych is a new initiative which hopes to use hip-hop to to address issues including stigma towards mental illness and the lack of diversity within the psychiatric profession.

"Much of hip-hop comes from areas of great socioeconomic deprivation, so it's inevitable that its lyrics will reflect the issues faced by people brought up in these areas, including poverty, marginalisation, crime and drugs," initiative co-founder Dr Akeem Sule wrote in The Lancet Psychiatry.

"In fact, we can see in the lyrics many of the key risk factors for mental illness, from which it can be difficult to escape. Hip-hop artists use their skills and talents not only to describe the world they see, but also as a means of breaking free.

"There's often a message of hope in amongst the lyrics, describing the place where they want to be - the cars they want to own, the models they want to date."

Sule and his fellow co-founder Dr Becky Inkster hope the project will be rolled out into prisons, schools and hostels to promote positive self-esteem.

We've had an enormous response from the global community, from patients, prisoners, and parents to artists and fans alike," says Inkster. "We are overwhelmed and excited by requests from people around the world reaching out to us who want to help. It has been moving to see how honest and open people have been with us.

"It's been about forty years since hip-hop first began in the ghettos of New York City and it has come a long way since then, influencing areas as diverse as politics and technology. Now we hope to add medicine to the list."