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Hymns and Mental Illness

Soothing Sounds

My mum (mom) if you’re reading in the States :-) suffers from mental illness.

There are times when she finds it helpful to listen to hymns, the ‘old fashioned’ or ‘traditional’ kind. Her favourites include “I Need Thee Every Hour”, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “The King Of Love My Shepherd Is”, “I Know Whom I Have Believed”, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” and “Love Divine All Loves Excelling”, though there are many more. She’s ‘old school’, brought up in a generation steeped in hymns with theological imagery flowing through every verse. That was an era when hymns were written by people who were theologians first, rather than musicians first (forgive the huge generalisation).

Listening to these helps soothe her, provides succour and a measure of peace to flow through an often troubled mind. I confess that, although I’m happy to listen to more modern expressions of musical worship, I prefer the ‘older’ ones as well, I find their substance more compelling although there are indepth modern ones. I was brought up listening to and singing the older ones and they remain fixed in my memory to this day. Its not a bad thing to have fixed in your memory.

Frequently being in the same room as my mum, if she listens to these hymns  then I listen to them as well. In fact I have learned to know when mum is struggling because she will specifically say to me “Could you put the hymns on please?” I confess that although I love hymns, listening to the same ones over and over again ad infinitum gets a little wearing at times. Its like being in church and the minister chooses the same hymn or song choice every week, it sometimes loses its appeal. The same as listening to a new song on the radio, we like it at first but after its been played for the hundredth time it loses appeal. Mum doesn’t seem to have that problem. Listening to them genuinely seems to be like an oasis in a desert to her, or maybe not a desert, maybe more of an oasis in a ‘troubled zone’ in her mind.

I remember I had, I think I still have it, a cd of the Scottish Philharmonic Singers singing the Psalms of Scotland. I have it on my iPod now. Modern it can’t be described as but it is one of the most edifying and cleansing pieces of music I have ever heard. There is an organ I think but that’s it as far as instruments are concerned and sometimes that’s so far in the background that all you can hear are the voices of the choir. All of it is spirit enhancing and some of it is breathtakingly beautiful. You could close your eyes and imagine you were watching a heavenly sunrise with the Psalms as the background music.  ’Just’ simple human voices lifting their praises to the heavens and the One who dwells there through the medium of singing words penned by God’s servant from the Psalms so many many years ago. I think I just wrote that it can’t be described as modern, I was wrong, you can’t get much more modern than eternal truth. Its not to everyone’s taste, and different people will have widely different types of music they listen to if they need help at any given time. My mum (mom) finds the hymns work for her, they are something akin to medicine that no doctor can prescribe. The Psalms work for me, as well as the hymns. Medicine prescribed by a master Shepherd.

It can calm my mind like few other things can.

Such hymns and Psalms have a cleansing effect on my mum’s mind like nothing else I know of. Other than prayer of course. Then again, many of these pieces of spiritual worship are prayers in their own right.

Thanks for reading.

Somewhere Amazing

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