Improving Health and Well-being through Therapeutic Drumming by Charlie Stirling

This project is about improving physical and mental health and well being. The purpose is to give young people an escape from daily challenges using therapeutic drumming. When Charlie takes this project to Malawi or Zambia it also provides a cultural exchange educating each other on our different cultures through exchanging drumming techniques and traditions.

Learning Outcomes

An escape from mental and physical challenges.

Learning about Mental Health issues.

Discovering coping skills that could potentially save a life.

Exploring new ways to interact with your peers using a fun and creative activity.

Learn about suicidal training.


This session works best with the following objects:

Snare Drumsticks (Purchase here)

Snare drum pads (Purchase here)

Boom whackers. For this activity YV’s and AV’s should split into groups of no more than 8. The number of groups is how many sets you will need (Purchase here)

If you cannot purchase these items do not worry! Maybe try the following:

Contact local pipe bands and ask for equipment

Local schools

Use sticks and buckets, pots or empty tubs (this will give you an insight to what children in African nations might use)

Simply use hands and feet (this can only be used for the first section)

Other information before session

To successfully carry out this session you will need a group of young people with adult supervision (Perfect for a PSYV group). This should be taught in a large room with plenty of space. Please make young people aware of suicide hotlines and support staff in your area for additional support (For example: SAMH Young Minds or these links on the NHS website ).


Mental health problems seem to be increasing over the years, especially in young people. The issue with young people and mental health is not unique to Scotland. International studies suggest that the rates of mental illness in Malawi and Zambia are also high - at least as high as those in Western and other developing countries. These countries have one of the lowest numbers of doctors per capita, therefore mental health services are very underdeveloped. In Malawi, there are currently only two Psychiatrists, that's one per 8 million people. The proportion of Africans who receive treatment is extremely low. People can be helped by music. It has a significant impact on improving those living with low mood and anxiety as well as other mental health conditions. Therapeutic drumming has been shown to have positive benefits to education, health and mental health and well being through the physical aspect of drumming and the emotional release it brings, reducing stress and facilitating self-expression. Drumming releases endorphins, which allows the brain to be free from pain, stress and anxiety and on top of that it also helps physical health by boosting the immune system and relieving low blood pressure.

Step by step

Step 1 - Discuss in pairs what you think mental health is and some statistics you may know.

Step 2 – Watch this video on mental health and the effects it has on teens.

Step 3 – Group coordinators or other adults should discuss this video with group.

Step 4 – Youths should gather around one large table with snare pads and sticks. This can also be done in a circle using either the floor or chairs to support your drum pad.

Step 5 – All volunteers need to know how to hold drumsticks. Here is an example.

Step 6 – After successfully completing step 5, have a go at a rhythm game. For each syllable of your favourite song, tap the drum using opposite hands. This allows you to get used to the feeling of playing drums. Also play a game which involves concentration, play the same syllable game but with names. A volunteer uses the drum to give the syllables of their name and one other person, that another person then needs to do the same.

Step 7 – After the games, the group coordinator should split everyone into appropriate groups. This should be groups of no more than 8. The groups should watch the video below on music and the brain.

Step 8 – Boomwhackers should be handed out to the groups (each group should get one set each). Volunteers should then pick a note to work with.

Step 9 – Volunteers should try recreating songs using the boom whackers without any guidance. Some easy songs that everyone knows are Jingle bells and Happy birthday. Here are walkthroughs. These should only be used for checking notes and maybe a small bit of guidance every once and while. Note: you don’t need to play the full song as this could take a while. Just try to create a theme that you recognise.

Once the group get better at following the music they can try something more challenging like this version of Africa by Toto.

Step 10 – Once completed, return to normal seating as one big group and get ready for your final task.

Step 11 – This final task is important and may trigger different feelings in the group. Make sure you check that people are happy to explore the issues being covered.

In 2018 there were 6,507 registered suicides in the UK. That is 6,507 to many. The main cause of death in teens is suicide. Whilst the numbers are rising every day, the stigma and awareness is still extremely low.

To follow up this lesson you can visit the Zero Suicide Alliance. This provides important training on how to save a suicide related death.