What do music playlists and safety plans have in common? They are a conglomeration of intentional words and sounds collected in a single space. Can we make a music playlist into a working safety planning tool for young suicide prevention?

Both music and safety are highly personal and broaden throughout a person’s life. What applies to one young person, may not apply to all young people. One person’s idea of safety may be unsafe for another.

This is why it can be helpful and insightful to identify reasons to stay safe. How can those reasons be threaded into words? Sounds?

Some say that music is the language of the heart, but could music be an ethereal element of safety planning?

Intentional playlists

What songs help distract you from suicidal thoughts? Is it an overnight TikTok success like Russell’s “Lil Boo Thang” that takes you to safety through an upbeat summer barbecue bop? Or possibly the soothing piano keys of one of Chopin’s 21 “Nocturnes”? What about music that is unique and lesser known? Can the combination and diversity of these songs be included in one playlist, or multiple ones? Which works best for you?

Why did your mind think of the specific songs it recalled? It’s about paying attention to personal style, tastes, and how a song affects you.

Create purposeful titles

What do you title your playlists? Can you think of words that keep you safe? Words like— resilience, hope, or spring.

Do you want to keep safe for any family members or friends? Could you title playlists after people you love? Would it be possible to add songs that remind you of the person, or certain experiences and places you have visited with them?

If someone wants to keep safe for a cousin, are there songs that make you think of that cousin? Or are there songs you even want them to hear one day? Are there songs that you and your cousin have listened to and danced to together?

Add those into a compiled playlist so that when suicidal thoughts become more intense, it becomes less taxing for the mind to think up significant songs on the spot. If helpful, title the playlist after your cousin, and keep it or share it with others.

What about things you hope for, or hope that things could change? This could be arriving at a moment where you feel supported. A place of calmness. Or more tangible dreams like following through with a dream career. It could also be less explicable, like hope itself. Could the playlist be titled “Hope”, and include songs that encapsulate this concept?

What about a specific trip you’d like to make one day? If your dream is to visit Venice, could you compile a list of Venetian artists that you would like to further listen to? What music do you associate with New York or Lagos? Could you create a playlist that includes a song from every country or city you want to visit?

Explore unfamiliar music

Spotify allows you to type in the name of an artist, genre, album, or even word. Unfamiliarity can work in your favour when you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts because the mind may pay closer attention to unfamiliar sounds. Alongside new lyrics to reflect on. If it is a classical or instrumental song, it can still influence the mind as it’s fresh and there are no previous associations with it.

Listening to your needs

For some people, they want to stay safe for their cat, whereas others want to stay safe because they have an upcoming trip, or concert to attend. It is an experience that they hope to have.

Furthermore, some people instead need sound playing in the background—rainwater, whale pulses or bird songs. Pay attention to what keeps you connected to life, not others.

Return to music that means something to you

Not everyone enjoys listening to new music when they are struggling. This is why playlists that songs that you or a loved one associate with an important or positive time of your life can massively impact the ability to stay safe. If you say to yourself that you are having a poor mental health day, it could be beneficial to figure out if music can help lift your spirits, ease stress, or match your mood.

This is not to harangue that music playlists will resolve thoughts of suicide. Nor are intentional playlists made to supplement professional and medical support. Music can help communicate and identify; playlists can help with structuring those methods of expression.

Some people prefer that the music distracts from suicidal thoughts, whereas others want the music to match their emotions and mood for catharsis. Playlists can be created for a slew of reasons, such as parties, road trips, birthdays, exercise, love, or simply for the sake of listening. Would it be helpful to intentionally create a playlist with suicide safety in mind?

 

References:

https://au.reachout.com/articles/how-to-use-music-for-mental-health

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/telling-your-story-blogging-or-vlogging-for-mind/

https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2020/music-mental-health.html

https://www.tonicmusic.co.uk/trzines

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/30/well/mind/therapy-music-anxiety-mental-health.html

 

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