Where Words Fail, Music Speaks: The Impact of Participatory Music on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Asylum Seekers


Arts & Health: An International Journal of Research, Policy and Practice




Background: There is growing evidence that participatory music can be supportive and empowering for marginalised, culturally diverse populations. Amid largely hostile reception of asylum seekers in Australia, a group of music facilitators regularly attends an Immigration Transit Accommodation facility to share music and singing activities with detained asylum seekers, to counter significant mental and emotional distress resulting from indefinite detention. Methods: This paper outlines the key themes of a narrative analysis, from a health and wellbeing perspective, of music facilitators' monthly written observations recorded in 2012. Results: By drawing on examples from observational narratives, we outline a framework that suggests links between music and singing, and the health and wellbeing of detained asylum seekers. The framework includes four intertwined concepts: (1) Humanisation, (2) Community, (3) Resilience, and (4) Agency. Conclusions: The framework suggests the potential for participatory music to counter the significant impact of traumatic experiences and detention on asylum seekers' health and wellbeing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Coping; Distress; Mental Health; Music Listening; Music Medicine; Psychological Outcomes; Recorded Music Listening; Recreative Music Methods; Resilience; Singing a Song; Stress; Trauma; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

asylum seekers; singing; detention; health and wellbeing; Health Promotion; Mental Health; Well Being; Asylum Seeking

Study Type

Editorials, Opinions, Position Papers

Document Type