Sudbury researcher studies busking as benefit for mental health

A Sudbury researcher is examining whether busking helps people struggling with mental health issues.

Occupational therapist examining how busking may relieve loneliness and self-doubt

James Storrie says he enjoys playing his Celtic drum on the streets of Sudbury because it makes him feel like he's giving something back to the community. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)
A Sudbury researcher is undergoing a study with one of the nickel city's most recognized buskers to demonstrate how busking can be good for your mental health. That story came to us from the CBC's Olivia Stefanovich. 6:32

A Sudbury researcher is examining whether busking helps people struggling with mental health issues.

Through her work with Sudbury busker James Storrie, occupational therapist Karen Rebeiro Gruhl sees evidence that taking centre stage may have a value that extends beyond any money the performer may make.

"It's about having a purpose, about contributing and giving back a little," said Storrie, who agrees that busking helps his mental health.

Regardless of the rain, snow or summer sun, Storrie can be found playing his Celtic drum on the corner of Elm and Lisgar Streets in Sudbury.

That's because singing, and playing an instrument in public gives him the chance to become socially engaged with his community, he said.

"I've had people come back and tell me that the discussions they've had with me have helped them change their orientation towards how they approach their life. So that's kind of why I do this," said Storrie.

Busking also helps Storrie to relieve his isolation and sense of self-doubt, said Rebeiro Gruhl. 
Busking may give a sense of self-worth to those struggling with mental health issues, says Sudbury occupational therapist Karen Rebeiro Gruhl. (Supplied)

"So whether it's just the rhythmic pattern of the drumming, because he uses the celtic drum, or whether it's the distractions of other people in the community, or having a focus on helping someone else, all of those things can be really helpful to help you take you off that path of thinking," she said.

Most importantly, it gives Storrie a sense of self-worth, said Rebeiro Gruhl.

"I hope others will pay attention to people who are buskers and not knowing their stories and validate the work they're doing out in our communities," she said.

Rebeiro Gruhl said she and Storrie will seek publication together, after she wraps up the study in June.

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