According to certain therapists, music writer and podcaster Jason Schreurs is one hot mess. But during his treatment, what he learns is that not every manic episode can be easily understood. During his time with medications and working his own issues out, he found his muse. He believes punk rock music is just as effective to help deal with mood swings. And most scholars and medical professionals don’t give this genre the credit it deserves that his newly released book, Scream Therapy, A Punk Journey Through Mental Health, exquisitly explores. A few of them were former rockers themselves! Sometimes to be able to scream and shout is all one needs.
After learning how to effectively manage than fully conquer his demons, he’s now helping others not only with workshops, but also with his Scream Therapy podcast. Added to the list is a very personal dialogue with readers in his newly released self-published book. It’s an excellent intimate look at everything Schreurs went through during his most trying time of his life. It’s also neatly organised according to each gig his band performed at. It helped me understand his chronological journey. As for what I felt when finishing this book, the feeling a silver lining exists even had me smiling.
This book is available to purchase through the official website, and Schreurs touring the Pacific Northwest to spread the word at each stop he makes! But first, we require an introduction!
JS: I’ve been a punk rocker since I was a teen, and I’ve been writing since then, too. So the journalism I did for three decades has always been tailored towards music, especially punk rock and metal. And recently, because of my mental health meltdown, I’ve moved into writing about issues in this sector. So, my book, Scream Therapy, A Punk Journey Through Mental Health. It is a conglomeration of both.
And I’ve always been a DIY punk, and my home is in Powell River, off the Sunshine Coast of BC. Flex Your Head Press is my own publishing company, and I’m almost sold out of the first print run! I may have like 200 copies left by the end of the tour. As soon as AK Press distributes it in the States, it’ll be more widely available. Right now, it’s way easier for me to fill orders from the basement punk rock style than to have it filled by some other company.
In the book, it reads like you’ve been with many bands, but which one is your baby?
JS: The main one that’s in the book is Punk Jams—created by myself and a few others—where people would just show up, and get all wild, scream, and dance around. It became an extension of me; I’d bring in all kinds of people from different bands in Victoria and Nanaimo, Vancouver, and we’d all just get together on a certain night and just improv a set of noise and punk. And that kind of comes to light during the tour that I went on in August 2018. The shows represent my mental state at the time, and are kind of like the hinge of the book that holds the whole thing together.
What I look at is mental health from punks in the scene and medical professionals who are also punks. And there’s, of course, my own story, which is a memoir of my life from growing up in a small town to going into the city and getting involved with the scene and the work that they do now with mental health.
After reading Scream Therapy, A Punk Journey Through Mental Health, I see it’s very personal. Was it difficult to pour your soul out?
JS: I knew it was something that I had to write. It details a severe mental crisis. Likewise, it details the transformation that I had around finding my peace. It was all stuff that came out easily.
My writing style is very off the cuff; I don’t feel like I have to push to get it out. To relive the traumas honestly was not difficult. I think that it was therapeutic, and it was a way for me to make sense of everything. And the book is very much about my journey.
So when did you realise that you can finally turn this around and also be someone to help others?
JS: I’ve done volunteer work. Not only did I facilitate a support group for bipolar folks, but also offer coaching. I had formal training because you have to. I mean, I’m never going to feel like I’m completely stable and that I’m out of the woods with this lifelong condition; I could have a relapse anytime. Mental health is something that you manage.
There’s a documentary called Cover Your Ears by Sean Patrick Shaul where he presents a very good case about why censoring music is bad. That’s because some advocacy groups see that certain bands are negative, and are singing about things that young ears shouldn’t hear. They believe it contributes to delinquency. How do you respond to that?
JS: Well, I think it’s still bullshit. You can look at studies on all sides, and you can find the results that you want to find. The ones I was looking at that I really resonated with were the ones that are talking about how there’s this myth that “loud and angry music,” will make someone angrier. It’s just complete falsity.
Take it one step further and go to start playing in a band or go to a show and start yelling the lyrics, a band on the stage and yelling at all your friends. You’re now releasing even more of that, of that distress. So yeah, I think it’s complete garbage that these people will say this kid will hurt somebody, because he was listening to Cannibal Corpse.
I’m reminded of William Cosgrove’s quote about how music can soothe the savage beast.
JS: That’s exactly what it is. Music can also soothe or invigorate the person who is not a savage beast. So you can listen to a band like Hot Water Music, who is all about positivity. Or a person can be really depressed and listen to sad music, and that may be a way of relating to their emotions. It’s like a size fits all sort of thing, or you can use it for any kind of therapy.
Was that the reason you decided to create your Scream Therapy podcast?
JS: It came from a time when I was completely broken, and I didn’t know how I would get back to journalism–which is what I already always did my whole life. I felt like I was done! Depression completely enveloped my entire life, and my podcast was my first step to getting back into this kind of creative pursuit.
Also, I knew I wanted to write the print version right away after coming home from the hospital the very first day after my outburst. That’s where my brain went automatically. But those notes that I wrote down sat there for a good year and a half because I just could not do anything.
How long has that been running?
JS: It started in January 2020 and it’s every two weeks. And I’m on episode 70 right now. And there’s also Flex Your Head, which is myself and friends talking about classic punk albums. My hosting platform is SoundCloud, but you can get it anywhere like on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.
About your book tour, are there any plans to expand beyond this region?
JS: I’m travelling the Pacific Northwest for now and will need a grant to go further. I will be attending Fest in Gainesville, Florida next. Likewise, I’ve gone for the last 10 years in a row, and it’s terrific! A reading at the Gainesville library is planned, and then I’m hoping to do something back east, like either Toronto or Halifax.