How Can Music Impact Mental Health Diagnosis

Music is Therapeutic – A Celebration Of A Legend

This past weekend, Mr. Q and I attended ” A Celebration of Oscar Peterson “. Oscar Peterson is regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, his Canadiana Suite, originally written as a ballet, was performed by Thompson Egbo Egbo on piano. This was followed by a performance of Florence Price’s Symphony NO.1.

I learned that Florence Price’s Symphony NO.1. was the first symphony by a Black Woman to be performed by a major American orchestra.

My hubby loves jazz, and this musical Black History Month event seemed to soothe both our souls.  After the amazing melodious performance, we got the opportunity to meet the talented Thompson Egbo Egbo.  


Clinical Diagnosis Criteria for ADHD

Thompson Egdo Egdo told the story of how learning to play music set him on a trajectory that differs from many young black men who are often overdiagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Soon after immigrating from Nigeria, there was concern that the renowned jazz pianist wasn’t adjusting well in school.

His mother was told that Thompson needed to be tested and possibly be put on drugs like Ritalin for his behavioral issues. As she cried in the hallway of her son’s elementary school, someone approached her and suggested that she enroll Thopmson in music lessons to give him something to focus on.

According to the DSM-5’s Criteria for ADHD:

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years must be present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s development for a diagnosis of ADHD.  Only trained healthcare providers can diagnose or treat ADHD.

Statistics show that Black children are often misdiagnosed and overdiagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities at a higher rate than non-black children.

According to the CDC latest data and statistics on ADHD;

“Black, non-Hispanic children and White, non-Hispanic children are more often diagnosed with ADHD (12% and 10%, respectively), than Hispanic children (8%) or Asian, non-Hispanic children (3%)”

Transformative Potential Of Music

At an early age, Thompson managed to channel the complexity of adjusting to a new environment and his free spirit in a creative direction. After graduating from high school, he earned a degree in Music, and today he gives back to the same community where he grew up in Toronto’s Regent Park, by supporting the arts foundation he created.

Music connects us and has the capacity to alter mood, convey emotion, and communicate identity. For young people, the potential benefits of participating in musical activities include stress relief, mood management, identity formation, and emotional expression.

Current research investigating the functions of music in everyday life shows that music is beneficial for our overall cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. 

Music has been shown to activate some of the broadest and most diverse networks of the brain. Of course, music activates the auditory cortex in the temporal lobes close to your ears, but that’s just the beginning. The parts of the brain involved in emotion are not only activated during emotional music, they are also synchronized. Music also activates a variety of memory regions. And, interestingly, music activates the motor system.”,music%20activates%20the%20motor%20system.

Music is therapeutic, it has the potential of enhancing your well-being, learning, cognitive function, quality of life and happiness, and its potential benefits for children, particularly children diagnosed with AHDA is being explored. A recent study done in 2020 showed that music improves focus and attentiveness in children diagnosed with ADHD.


What’s On My Mind?

Since young children are naturally energetic and some children just naturally have a higher activity level than others do. Children should never be classified as having ADHD just because they’re different from other children.

Since studies indicate that stereotyping, racism, implicit bias, research representation, and care disparities negatively affect the way Black children are evaluated and treated by mental health professionals and in school settings.

It is so very important that parents of Black children advocate for correct diagnosis as well as treatment plans that include behavioral, educational and psychological interventions and that their medication is managed by experienced professionals.

I am envisioning a future where :

    • Clinicians provide racially and culturally sensitive care in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD to ensure all children receive appropriate care.
    • The development of culturally sensitive ADHD diagnostic tools for Black youth.
    • I am looking for a future where therapy is inclusive of music, art, play, yoga, movement, stillness, and nature, not as an alternative, not even adjunctive care but as holistic health care.




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Janet Haughton Quarshie