Jason Schreurs' new book takes an essential look at the tangible and positive part that punk music and community has played in providing a lifeline for those that need it.
“Punk rock saved my life”. That is the premise at the heart of this powerful book- ‘Scream Therapy: A Journey through Mental Health‘- by author, podcaster and lifelong punk fan Jason Schreurs. And Schreurs isn’t just applying this to his own life, but through interviews and research demonstrates that the literally lifesaving ethos and energy of punk rock has given encouragement, catharsis and strength to countless others.
Schreurs recounts events in his own life with honesty and frankness- a childhood that contained its fair share of traumatic events that had far reaching impacts beyond those initial childhood years. Without particularly consciously looking for an outlet and a comfort, Schreurs discovered punk rock. And in that scene, found the solidarity, support and validation that make him a passionate advocate for the healing power of the punk rock community and still an ardent punk fan all these years later.
Metal was the gateway into punk with Black Sabbath and Metallica being the author’s first forays into hard rock music- the loudness, intensity and ‘dark’ imagery piquing his interest in his formative years, thanks to a friend’s older brother.
Then came skate punk and bands like Corrosion of Conformity and Septic Death and of course the US hardcore scene and bands like Suicidal Tendencies and Black Flag. The hope-tinged rage and intense, explosive energy both on stage and in their songs, offered a sense of acknowledgement, acceptance and unity for the feelings that Schreurs experienced, along with many others in the scene.
In a world where being different, struggling to fit in, experiencing trauma and just generally struggling to thrive in an aloof and individualistic society can entrench feelings of isolation and despair, it’s no wonder that finding a home amongst like minded people in something like punk rock can literally be the difference between life and death.
‘Scream Therapy‘ is not a biography, even though it does contain personal details about Schreurs’ own journey and life. The book contains interviews with dozens of individuals in the punk scene- musicians and fans- who give their own testimony to their own struggles and how punk rock has saved them. From Bianca Cruz of Texas punk band Amygdala living with Borderline Personality Disorder; skateboarder Rodney Mullen (author of ‘How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself‘) and his experience of depression and potential Autism diagnosis as well as Jenna Pup from Philadelphia grindcore band HIRS Collective and punk embracing her queerness, there is a multitude of poignant, painful but ultimately quite uplifting personal stories of fortitude, resilience and recovery.
As well as the personal anecdotes, Schreurs takes great care to weave in perspectives and information from mental health professionals, research, sociology and neurology to make this book educational and well rounded.
I think we’ve all long considered that punk rock is more than just a type of music and many of us may well have personal stories that corroborate the assertion that punk is a ‘way of life’ or influential beyond just the music we listen to and perhaps the clothes we wear.
But even if you have always thought or suspected this, Schreurs book makes a compelling case to really evidence this and show- pretty much conclusively- that yes, punk rock does save lives. It will remind you of the power of community and shared experiences but also perhaps, a solid reminder to us all to be aware of the struggles of others and to be mindful of those who may need a helping hand. If punk rock has taught us anything, hopefully it is to leave no person behind.
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