EDUCATION: Innovative music therapy classes support pupils’ well-being


Councillors Clare Steel and John Millar with musicians from St Patrick’s Primary School in Dumbarton.

By Lucy Ashton

School pupils across West Dunbartonshire have been introduced to soothing Therapeutic Sound sessions to promote mindfulness and well-being as part of Children’s Mental Health Week.

The music therapy sessions took place in 15 primary schools across the area as part of an innovative approach to encourage young people to engage with mindfulness techniques from an early age.

Using heritage instruments from a range of traditional cultures including Himalayan and crystal singing bowls, the shamanic frame drum and Native American flute, the children were introduced to their soothing sounds as they considered how music can play a part in relaxation and good mental health.

The sessions, provided by Music Development Officer Tommy Regan, of West Dunbartonshire Council’s Youth Music Initiative, ended with a ‘Sound Bath’ where the children lay down and relaxed as the unique sounds and vibrations of the instruments washed over them.

Tommy, a certified Therapeutic Sound Practitioner, explained: “These sessions are a means of highlighting how Therapeutic Sound can be used to promote relaxation, calm, focus and increase overall wellbeing.

“We are keen to integrate aspects of this into more classes so it made sense to start during Children’s Mental Health Week.”

One session provided for P4 pupils at St Patrick’s Primary School in Dumbarton was attended by Councillors Clare Steel and John Millar – Convener and Vice Convener of the Council’s Education Services Committee. 

Councillor Steel said: “This was a wonderful experience that clearly had a positive effect on the children who took part, saying afterwards that they felt relaxed, peaceful and happy.

“Children’s Mental Health Week provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of supporting our young people’s emotional and mental well-being and I am delighted that we are embracing such innovative techniques to achieve that goal.

“If we can introduce young people to tools – whether that’s mindfulness, therapeutic sound, physical exercise or just taking some quiet time out – it equips them with an ability to self-soothe and adopt habits that can benefit them throughout their lives.”

Councillor Millar added: “It was a real treat to see the children’s faces when they first heard the unique and relaxing sounds of these instruments.

“It’s valuable to introduce young people to the idea of mindfulness and awareness of mental health from an early age, even more so now than ever given the pressures of recent years since the Covid pandemic.

“It’s inspiring to see Tommy taking such an innovative approach to engage the pupils through the power of sound and the positive impact it had on the class was obvious.”

Meanwhile,  Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton constituency, has demanded action on ‘unacceptable’ waits for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) during Children’s Mental Health Week.

The annual awareness event focuses on the mental health of children and young people and highlights support available.

The most recent statistics on wait times for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services show that in the month of September last year alone, almost 250 young people across the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area were waiting between 19 weeks and a year for treatment.

There were 871 referrals made in that month, the highest figure in almost a year.

The Dumbarton constituency MSP’s Scottish Labour colleague, Councillor Michelle McGinty, previously expressed concern that West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership were fudging the figures of young people waiting for treatment.

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie and Councillor Michelle McGinty.

She claims they were classing patients as having had a first appointment despite the fact they had merely received a telephone consultation to confirm that they needed an assessment.

The Councillor, who is also Depute Leader of West Dunbartonshire Council and Chair of the West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership Board, is holding a public meeting to engage with parents of affected youngsters.

The even is scheduled to take place at the Civic Space within West Dunbartonshire Council’s Church Street base on Friday (February 10) at 2pm.

It comes after it emerged that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in the area are facing a severe backlog, with cases dating back to 2018 currently still waiting for assessment.

Jackie Baillie MSP said: “As we mark Children’s Mental Health Week, we continue to see unacceptable waiting times for children and young people to be able to access the help they need.

“Indeed, there are genuine concerns that the figures which are being presented are also not painting the full picture, which in turn means it becomes difficult to address the problems with accessing treatment as the proper scrutiny is not applied.

“Behind each of these statistics is a family who have had the bravery to approach health professionals for support and yet they are languishing on waiting lists for months on end, worrying when help will be available and, in some cases, concerned it will come too late.

“The hard-working staff within these services are doing the best job they can but they need proper resources and investment.

“We cannot have local young people being failed and put in danger due to the incompetence of the SNP.

“I commend my colleague, Councillor Michelle McGinty for holding this important public meeting to bring together worried parents and work towards a proper solution for these families.”

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