Music and Healing: The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I just finished getting off the seventh in my series of pieces on the connection between past trauma and bipolar. Naturally, a lot of the discussion focuses on PTSD, which is a major issue facing our service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention those haunted by their tours of duty in Vietnam.


    Coincidentally, I will be talking with a lot of these people tomorrow. Let me explain:


    I have been playing the didgeridoo for about five years. A couple of years ago, I began attending drum circles. A certain "Dr Jon" also attended. I first met up with Dr Jon at a NAMI walk, where he was playiing a metallic hang drum by a booth he was manning. I snuck up behind him with my didge and started honking along. Really, I'm not making this up.

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    I could write a book on the mental health benefits of drumming and didging, and someday maybe I will. Anyway, last year Dr Jon invited me to bring my didge to Stand Down. Dr Jon, it turns out, is Jon Nachison, a soldier turned psychologist who organized the first Stand Down for homeless veterans in the US some 25 years ago, here in San Diego. The event is now staged in 200 locales throughout the US. Dr Jon was featured on 60 Minutes two years ago.


    Last year, about 1,000 homeless vets gathered on a high school athletic field over a period of three days for counseling, medical check-ups, and other services. What does my didgeridoo have to do with all this? Well, Dr Jon could also write a book on the mental health benefits of drumming (but maybe not didging). So, tomorrow morning, he and a group of other drummers he has rounded up - plus one didgeridoo player - will be performing for the vets.


    Last year was my first Stand Down experience. If you have ever fantasized about performing with Santana, trust me - I got to experience the next best thing, better, even.


    After the performance, I hung around and got a chance to talk one-on-one with these vets. The didge was a great conversational ice-breaker. This year, I'm bringing along three didges made out of PVC pipe to give away. Can't wait.


    I'm sure there is a question in this: Music in your life - fire away!   


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Published On: July 15, 2012