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Scream Therapy: A Punk Journey Through Mental Health

by Jason Schreurs


Can unconstrained caterwauling, deafening decibels, and a thoroughly nonconformist ethos provide a balm to soothe psychological woes? The answer is an emphatic yes, says Jason Schreurs, a long-time music journalist and lifelong punk rock aficionado, in his unique memoir Scream Therapy: A Punk Journey Through Mental Health.

Combining his life experience with those of other members of the punk community, including medical professionals and people with lived experience of mental-health challenges, Schreurs assembles a chorus of voices that attest to the cathartic power of the music genre and the empathic nature of this community.

The book includes a haunting description of Schreurs’s experience with childhood sexual abuse, and the cycling of moods between dark depression and hyperactive mania that culminate in a psychotic episode in adulthood. A bipolar-disorder diagnosis lights a path to wellness that includes listening to the music he cherishes: “Walls of noise calm me, loosen my pent-up innards, and let hope ease out. No one can hurt me here.”

Schreurs hosts a podcast on punk and mental health, also called Scream Therapy, which provides much of the book’s source material, in the form of interviews with punk musicians as well as therapists and physicians with ties to the community. The latter includes Houston-based psychologist Blythe TwoSisters, who sports a purple mohawk and offers radical candour and acceptance to her patients. “Come as you are…. We’re going to cuss a lot. You can look how you want, and you can dress how you want.”

He speaks to North Carolina–based psychiatric nurse practitioner Kellie Newsome, who asserts that artists experiencing mania can leverage it for increased creative output, as long as the mania doesn’t escalate too much too rapidly – which can lead to paranoid delusions, psychosis, and suicidality. And does music really soothe the raging beast? A University of Queensland study cited in Scream Therapy found that when angry people played loud, angry music, it regulated their mood positively and enhanced mental health.

Although this is far from an academic text, Schreurs makes frequent references to medical studies, but the lack of footnotes or references may frustrate readers who want to dig more deeply into the data.

Schreurs’s prose style is gritty and unvarnished – and at moments ineloquent. One person is described as having “sideways-egg-shaped cheeks.” Describing an emotional moment, he says “My eyes dribble like a pin-pricked garden hose.” Some edits could have been made to avoid repetition and unnecessary details. For instance, Schreurs attends an annual punk music festival in Gainesville, Florida, called Fest, and in one chapter recounts a decade’s worth of personal highlights from the event.

Interspersed within the narrative is a tour diary for Punk Jams, an improvisational punk-rock band with a cast of players that shifts with each tour date. Though it becomes clear the band’s ringleader, dubbed the “Punk Screamer,” is actually Schreurs himself, these segments are told in the second person in an attempt to put the reader in his shoes. This device is distracting and unnecessary.

But these concerns are minor; overall, Schreurs and his band of advocates present a convincing case for punk’s contribution to mental harmony.


Reviewer: Shawn Syms

Publisher: Flex Your Head Press/AK Press


Price: $25.00

Page Count: 268 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-73892-140-9

Released: May

Issue Date: June 2023

Categories: Art, Music & Pop Culture, Health & Self-help, Reviews