Spotlight - Music and maternal mental health

Every month, the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) puts the spotlight on an activity or strand of work that is important to them. This month we hear from freelance musician Yvonne Wyroslawska, who was awarded Creative Scotland Open Funding to run music sessions for new mums and babies.


Musician Yvonne Wyroslawska playing the bassoon for a baby

Musician Yvonne Wyroslawska playing the bassoon for a baby

An estimated 1 in 5 new mothers experiences a mental health condition and evidence suggests that this figure has doubled during the pandemic - so if you know 2 new mums, chances are, 1 of them is experiencing poor mental health.

I have worked as a freelance musician for almost 20 years, delivering music education and community music projects across Scotland and internationally, and specialising in early years music education using the Colourstrings approach and Kodály-inspired practice.

As a musician and a mother, I feel a social responsibility to focus on this often-ignored population and to begin to break down stigma around maternal mental health through creative arts practice.

In 2021, I was awarded Creative Scotland Open Funding to run music sessions for new mums and their babies. The aim of this project is to harness the many benefits of music on mental health: building confidence and emotional wellbeing through active participation in singing and musicmaking, encouraging bonding and communication between parent and child, and at the same time supporting the baby in its early development.

I am finding that mental health is generally a key priority of my work at present, when so many people are feeling burnt-out and exhausted after 2 years of a pandemic. Across all aspects of my work – whether I am working directly with children and their families, working with teachers, educators, or third-sector staff, or delivering training to musicians – everyone is needing extra support, time, and empathy.

Pre-COVID, I was delivering music projects for schools, nurseries, and informal settings, and developing projects for organisations and institutions including the University of Stirling Psychology Kindergarten, the RSNO, and various local authorities.

It has been amazing to be back in-person with various groups - as we all know, singing together is far more powerful in person, and baby cuddles don't quite translate across a screen!- Yvonne Wyroslawska

Of course, in March 2020, the world went online, which meant a move to delivering online music and movement sessions for children and their families and providing music education training sessions online for musicians.

I was commissioned by various organisations during this time to develop online music education career-long professional learning content for early years and primary teachers.

Since September 2021, my work has taken a more hybrid approach. While still delivering lots of online training (with the huge advantage of being able to work with practitioners worldwide) it has been amazing to be back in-person with various groups - as we all know, singing together is far more powerful in person, and baby cuddles don't quite translate across a screen!

Creative arts are vital in supporting mental health and wellbeing: creative practitioners place high value in the participant's voice, using their feedback to guide our practice, and take a person-centred, holistic approach.

Importantly we build trust and create open dialogue with participants. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of music and creative arts to engage with people emotionally, socially, and physically, and am so grateful to be able to do this work.

This article was published on 05 Apr 2022