Researcher warns parents to watch out for teenagers who listen to one album constantly – and be ready to intervene

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Listen out: Expert says parents should take care

A music therapy expert has warned that kids aged between 13 and 18 who continually listen to one heavy metal track or album could be in danger of developing mental illness.

And she’s called on parents to watch for the behaviour – because it could even be an early warning of suicidal tendencies.

Dr Katrina McFerran, a senior lecturer at Melbourne University, has spent five years studying kids’ listening patterns, in a study which involved in-depth interviews with 50 teenagers and a survey of 1000 others.

She says: “The MP3 revolution means that young people are accessing music more than ever before, and it’s not uncommon for some to listen to music for seven or eight hours a day.

“Most listen to a range of music in positive ways: to block out crowds, to lift their mood or to give them energy when exercising.

“But young people at risk of depression are more likely to be listening to music, particularly heavy metal music, in a negative way.

“Examples of this are when someone listens to the same song or album of heavy metal music over and over again, and doesn’t listen to anything else. They do this to isolate themselves or escape from reality.

“If this behaviour continues over a period of time it might indicate that this young person is suffering from depression or anxiety, and at worst, might suggest suicidal tendencies.”

McFerran is attempting to develop an early-warning system to catch mental health issues at an early age, and she says parents can help by taking an interest in their kids’ listening habits.

“They should ask their children questions like, ‘How does that music make you feel?’ If children say the music reflects or mirrors the way they feel, then ask more about what the music is saying.

“If listening doesn’t make them feel good about themselves, this should ring alarm bells. Alternatively, if parents notice a downturn in their child’s mood after listening to music, this is also a cause for showing interest and getting involved.”

Dr McFerran welcomes more input on her study from parents and young people with relevant experiences.

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