As someone living with schizophrenia, music has always helped Mark Aggett quell the ‘turmoil’ in his mind.
Now he writes his own songs to help manage the voices in his head.
Mark Aggett, known on stage as “Mark Dark,” was 21 years old when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia — a mental illness that causes psychosis, delusions and hallucinations.
“My mind is in turmoil. It’s erratic,” he says.
It wasn’t an easy condition to live with and he says his life was made worse by friends leading him astray with drugs and alcohol.
“It was very hard because with schizophrenia the marijuana was no good for me and the only avenue that I had out was to listen to the music,” he says.
Mr Aggett ended up in Graylands psychiatric hospital in Perth after he was arrested for throwing rocks at cars.
“I lost track of reality,” he says.
“I was walking the streets and I thought the people in the cars were in my head … I ended up throwing rocks at the cars. I didn’t cause any major damage. I just threw a couple of little rocks at the cars.”
At Graylands Hospital he got the help he needed and joined the Creative Expression Centre for Arts Therapy (CECAT) music program, where he begun writing his own songs.
“It has made me much more of a better person,” he says.
“If I listen to the music hard and put my focus on the music … it eases my mind quite a bit.
“I still hear [the voices]. I still battle them, but I can live with them now.”
Mental health patients turning to music
Mr Aggett’s songs were recorded on-site at the hospital’s recording studio.
Hundreds of songs have been recorded at the studio since the hospital started running the music as a therapeutic intervention program in 2018.
Senior occupational therapist Andrew Miller says the initiative is about helping people deal with their trauma, emotion or unresolved issues.
“I think music is a universal language that has great therapeutic potential,” he says.
“We’re mainly about just trying to harness feeling and harness emotional expression and trying to create something that people can listen back to with a sense of pride and achievement.
“It’s empowering seeing people progress through their recovery journey.”
In the past year, more and more people have reached out to CECAT’s music program, including people dealing with trauma, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
R U OK song shows others how to help
In 2018, Kita Sugg was in a rough place and struggling to keep on top of an emotionally unstable personality disorder, depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
She described being alone and lost.
“I pretty much kept in my place. I didn’t really go out or open the curtains … I was just too anxious to even leave the house to do food shopping.”
Music has been part of her journey to recovery.
Now, she hopes her songs will help others, including people whose loved ones were struggling with mental illness.
“It’s about the R U OK message,” she says of her latest song.
“My song is a more upbeat way to get the message across and it also goes through the steps [to having that conversation].
“It would have been good if I had been asked if I was OK a bit earlier and maybe started my journey to recovery maybe a couple of years earlier.
“But I guess things happen when they happen and I’m just grateful things are turning around now.”