JT: You work in psychiatry and are also a musician. Can you tell us
a little about the challenges of this, and also any potential
GS: There is great benefit in having a
creative outlet alongside a career like psychiatry, which can
be very draining on our emotional well-being. In some ways
music (and any creative pursuit) is a reprieve from work, but I
also think that it provides a way for us to work through our
experiences and come to terms with them through the creative
process. A lot of my music is inspired by my interaction with
mentally ill and eccentric people, and I think the process of
transforming those experiences into music shapes how I view those
The main challenges are logistical ones:
managing a band, rehearsals, and regular practice around busy work
and exam schedules. Sometimes it feels like music has become
JT: What is your view on the role of
music in mental health?
GS: So many of my patients use music as a
means to regulate their emotions, calm themselves down, and relieve
distress. It's a form of mindfulness. We also identify deeply with
the concepts and emotions expressed in music: our music choices
reflect our own emotional state and serve to validate our feelings.
A song may be the only indication that our distress is felt by
others, that we are not alone in being sad or angry.
JT: Should we be doing more as mental
health professionals to provide access to music and music therapy
to service users?
GS: Absolutely. I often ask patients if they
would like access to music, and arrange with relatives to provide
some sort of player. To be honest I don't know enough about music
therapy to recommend it, but I would love to try it myself!
Your band is called ‘Conundrum In
Deed’. Tell us a little about your band and the inspiration for the
We are heavily influenced by jazz, 70s
progressive rock, psychedelia, and folk, combining melodic
instrumentals with poetic and surreal lyrics. The process of
choosing a band name was indeed a conundrum, and the name reflects
what the music is about: a celebration of the beautiful strangeness
of humanity. Perhaps the name is as fundamentally inexplicable as
human nature itself.
You contributed proceeds from your
album launch to the mental health charity ‘Rethink’. Why have you
chosen this particular charity?
I have great respect for the work they do
around stigma. The 'Time to Change' campaign is particularly
inspiring. Together with Mind, they provide a great deal of support
for patients and relatives that is not covered by increasingly
stretched NHS services.
You have selected David Bowie's ‘All
The Madmen’ as having particular relevance to mental health. Can
you explain why?
I admit it’s an obvious choice, but it has
themes that influenced me in my teens and continues to have
relevance now. For me, it raises the subjectivity of normalcy and
questions the definition of some deviant behaviours as madness, and
others as socially acceptable. It's also a reminder that the
psychiatric paradigm of providing care for illness often results in
coercive treatments in less-than-therapeutic environments. Finally,
the chorus resonates strongly with my own preferences: 'I'd rather
stay here with all the madmen, than perish with the sad men roaming