I recently watched Yes Man, a movie starring Jim Carrey. It is a fun movie with a valuable message. Its message is that we should take advantage of the opportunities that present to us. As I was watching, there was one scene that caught my attention as a music therapy student. About halfway through the movie, Carl Allen, the character Jim Carrey plays, is helping his best friend’s fiancée do shopping for her wedding. While they are doing that, they hear about a guy on a ledge threatening to kill himself. They go out and see everybody looking at him and waiting for the police to arrive. Carl then decides to run up the building to try to convince him to not jump.
What happens next is what is interesting. At first, Carl has no idea about what to say to the guy wanting to jump. What do you say to somebody wanting to take his own life? But then Carl sees a guitar in the room and a light bulb goes on. He painstakingly tunes it and then comes back to the window, now full of confidence and decided to do something, and that something is music! He starts singing I Will Understand by Third Blind Eye:
I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend
You could cut ties with all the lies that you’ve been living in
And if you do not want to see me again
I would understand, I would understand
Then Carl forgets the lyrics that follow but the guy on the ledge reacts to the music! He picks up the song and sings the following verse:
The angry boy a bit too insane
Icing over a secret pain
You know you don’t belong
In a music therapy session, these lyrics could say a lot about the patient or client’s inner state of being. A sense of not belonging can lead to anger, depression, anxiety, and more. In externalizing his feelings through the music, the guy on the ledge could begin to process them. It is true that in the movie it is simply a hunch feeling by Carl (or rather the movie director) to use music. In real life, on the other hand, a music therapist has the knowledge to introduce or create songs like this with patients or clients to process their inner feelings.
Carl brings it back and engages the rest of the people present when he sings:
Well everyone I know has got a reason
To say, “Put the past away”
This shows a bit of the communal aspect of music and how everybody can come together to help a fellow human being through music. After that Carl goes back to the chorus and now the guy on the ledge is singing as well. And just as they are finishing Carl snatches him in (rather aggressively) and succeeds in bringing him back to a safe place.
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Here is the excerpt of the movie:
The first thing that many music therapists would tell you is that of course this is not music therapy because Carl is not a music therapist. I would agree, but I still think there are a lot of interesting things happening. Whether realistic or not, music was crucial in bringing the guy on the ledge to a safe point. Carl was able to transmit his message only through music and thanks to it he saved a life.
In music therapy, this would only be the beginning, as there would be many underlying issues to be addressed. Music for the guy on the ledge was a great way of expressing underlying feelings. Music therapy is acknowledged as a viable therapy in dealing with issues of mental health and for this guy, it seems like it would be particularly useful. While I would not recommend for us to start sending music therapists to every person threatening with killing themselves, I would still recommend for us to start looking at music therapy more seriously as a way of dealing with issues of mental health.
Let’s say YES to music therapy!
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