Troy Payne
Troy Payne, Inspirational Musician

Music and depression in children: The Rhythm of Resilience

At first music was my escape. As a young child, my headphones blocked out the shouting, drinking and abuse from the other room. The stories embedded within the songs took me away on a musical adventure. Retreat…a first layer of resilience.

As the years passed, music became a way to focus my energy. I listened to angry heavy metal music. It was a way to express how I saw the world. How I defined myself. Expression…a second layer of resilience.

As a teenager, when I began to play music, it became a way of moving through energy. I could now write sad or angry songs to rhythmically move the painful energy through me. It became a healthy activity of experiencing pain, anger, sadness and even happiness. Healing…a third layer of resilience.

Now as an adult who has healed, I use music to help teenagers move through their adversity and build resilience. And you can too.

– Ask children about the music they love. Do so without judgment. There is no “bad” music. A frustrated child may be drawn to aggressive music as a way to express dark emotions. As trusted adults, we can honour their present musical flavour. We can help them see music as a tool for resilience and guide them in moving through the three layers noted above: from retreat, to expression to healing.

– Invite them to go deeper into their music. Music is an expression. Invite them to write a song, or even a few lines, to express part of their story. Have them find a song online that could be the background music to their story. Or journal about how certain songs make them feel.

– Show how music moves energy. Apply what you know about releasing emotions, allowing and forgiveness to the music experience.  In my album Out of the Darkness, Into the Light , we explore how to be fully in a dark emotion and then release so we’re not defined by that pain. Our scars don’t dictate where we’re going…they just remind us where we’ve been (from the song Your Scars).

– Use instruments in sessions. With a hand drum ask a child to bang on it with anger. Then with sadness. Then with shame. Then with happiness. Experience the vibrations and how it moves energy.

– Experience music in community. Explore music therapy groups, take them to a drumming circle or an open mic event in the community.

– What if I’m not musical? You don’t need to be. Music is about stories and expression. Find your own inner storyteller. We all have our own stories: adversity discriminates against no one. Sharing those stories of how we personally have overcome adversity makes us “real” to the child and makes their experience real too. Think back to your own childhood stories. How did you overcome those pains or obstacles?

Music is one of the most powerful forms of storytelling we have. With music we retreat, we express, we heal…and we build resilience.


Thanks to Troy Payne for this exclusive article! Troy Payne is a former foster child who transformed tragedy into triumph. He spent a decade as a youth and family counsellor before launching his company Wellness Realization in 2004. Since that time Troy has traveled across North America as an inspirational speaker, musician, and international bestselling author of his book The Road to Resiliency. Discover more about Troy’s work:

 * Click here to find out more about Terezia Farkas and her Depression help and click here to follow Terezia on Twitter.


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