Blue Light Symphony Orchestra
The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra is a UK charity with the aim to encourage music making at a local level within the UK emergency services and also make music therapy available to those in the emergency services who are suffering from PTSD, stress, anxiety and related conditions.
The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra believe that taking part in musical activities helps to build mental resilience and enriches peoples lives but where people are struggling to cope, music therapy can provide effective treatment and so want to encourage as much music making as they can on a local level with several local choirs and music groups.
‘The idea of music as a healing influence which could affect health and behaviour is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato. The 20th century profession formally began after World War I and World War II when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to Veterans hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The patients’ notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musicians needed some prior training before entering the facility and so the demand grew for a college curriculum.
More recently music therapy has been used successfully to improve outcomes for veterans with PTSD. We believe strongly that music therapy has the potential to hugely benefit those in the emergency services who are similarly suffering due to repeated exposure to traumatic events. We have been discussing this with Daniel Thomas of Chroma, the UK’s leading national provider of arts therapy services, who is keen to work with us. On treatment of veterans, he said,
“PTSD is a normal reaction to abnormal events. Traumatic memories that cause PTSD are not stored like ‘normal’ memories, but music can by-pass cognitive appraisal to be used by the amygdala, the part of the brain which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory, in almost direct emotional processing.
“For many, talking therapies can be both distressing and intrusive and that’s why we developed a music therapy rehabilitation to help veterans. It’s something that works, as music is usually enjoyed in a safe environment, whilst also being evocative.
“Treatments such as music therapy can be a highly effective and cost-efficient approach. Specifically, in instances of PTSD, music therapy can help an individual to self-regulate through difficult emotional states and restore social relationships by fostering feelings of belonging.”
As a serving Police Officer, BLSO CEO and founder Seb Valentine knows first hand how difficult and painful it can be to talk about traumatic events he has witnessed, even with colleagues. The job of blue light workers is to help people in crisis but the desire to help is, for many, an intrinsic part of their personality and goes far beyond being just a job. In fact, police officers refer to what they do simply as “The Job”, and ironic joke on the fact that it tends to take over your whole life and is anything but. This means that it is very difficult for those in the emergency services to seek help when they need it and to talk about their experiences. Music gives an opportunity to express emotion without having to talk about the actual events.
Find out more, and see how you join them at one of their events on the BLSO website here.
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It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.