Sunday night, I went to see my favorite band, We Banjo 3, with my wife. The trio of four Irishmen from Galway blend traditional Irish music with American bluegrass and folk styles. And while the music alone is reason enough for me to love them, they are also incredibly supportive of mental health awareness.
I first discovered them at the Milwaukee Irish Festival three years ago and have been hooked ever since. Some of their songs have a mental health theme, some don’t, but all of them can lighten my mood, providing a glimmer of light during my darkest moments.
They often talk about how supportive they are of mental health awareness, and this year went even further, partnering with Mental Health America to raise money for mental health. And during this past show, their lead singer David Howley, perfectly encapsulated the how music and mental illness can intersect. He said, “life is painful, but life is also beautiful, and music is the in between.”
And music is the in between. When I am struggling in the darkness, music can be a bridge to brighter times, a reminder of something I love. Music can speak to the soul louder than the lies of mental illness ever could. It, as Dave Howley said, is a release.
It is a release from emotions that sometimes feel like they can overwhelm you, that you feel can’t be shared for fear that the world and the ones you love will see how broken you are. Music can fill in the cracks, fill in the holes that fill your soul when the darkness comes. It is a patronus against the dementors of depression, a salve for wounds that feel like they will never heal. And it is so much more.
It can give energy when mental illness steals your willpower. Sometimes it is only enough energy to tap your fingers to the beat, but that is more energy than you had before the music started playing.
And there is absolutely some music that I can’t listen to when I am struggling, for it will only pull me down deeper. Yet other songs, like many of the songs from We Banjo 3, communicate to me, reminding me of what is enjoyable, reminding me that I am not alone in ways that words simply can’t. And I sincerely hope there is music like that in your life. Because music is the in between, and I believe we need it to help us out of the darkness, to help us reconcile a world that is as beautiful as it is painful. That is what We Banjo 3 does for me, and their concert Sunday is a reason why I am still riding high this week.