The healing power of music
The healing power of music
Posted on 06/20/2016
Michael SilvioWhen Michael Silvio was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at six years old, not much was known about the illness. Characterized by involuntary sounds or movements called tics, most people just thought he was acting out. Later diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, he was simply labelled a bad kid.

Over the years, Michael faced extreme discrimination and stigma because of his mental illnesses. He’s been labelled a cocaine user, had people make up stories about him, been made fun of and had nasty things shouted at him. Even today, when what is needed is compassion and understanding, people make fun of him or mimic him in public. Sadly, he says, “it’s just part of having a mental illness.”

He knows there will always be people who don’t understand and aren’t compassionate, but says “You have to overcome that. You have to be strong and take care of yourself. You have to seek out help on your own; you can’t just sit there and hope help comes to you.”

And Michael did just that. Once he reached out, he got the help he needed. Using a variety of services available to him in the community, his life started to turn around. He got an apartment, started to rebuild his relationship with his family and began to regain his confidence.

One of the tools Michael has in his tool box to keep him well is his creativity. A musician and an artist, Michael has found a passion in rebuilding old, broken guitars and giving them new hope.

His love for music began as a 10 year old with the discovery of the Beatles. From then on, he was hooked. “There are songs that give me inspiration to keep going,” he says. “When I have really dark days or days I’m not feeling well mentally, I’ll put on a song that’s upbeat with a positive message and it usually brings me out of whatever’s bringing me down.”

When Michael plays music, a different part of the brain takes over and almost like magic, his uncontrolled tics disappear. He says “When I’m in deep concentration, it shuts the Tourette’s off and that kind of gives me a break from it.”

Michael is a fixture at Waypoint’s The Groove, an open mic night hosted at the HERO Centre the first Monday of every month.

He now says it’s the highlight of his month, but that wasn’t always the case. When he first started attending, he would sit at the back of the room and observe. With the encouragement of staff and other guests, he finally got up to play and says “They haven’t been able to shut me up since. Every time I go, I can’t wait till the next Groove. It’s just, I love music!”

He adds “music is a wonderful thing and that’s been my saving grace for all these years. Music has been a big thing in my life and it’s a good thing. There is hope. You have to believe in yourself and you’ll get there.” No truer words have ever been spoken.

This story is included in our 2015/2016 Annual Report. To read the full report, please visit our Publications page.