Music is more than a form of entertainment; it is also a means to heal. Nature sounds and soothing melodies are heard daily throughout the newly opened 16-bed Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Unit at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.
Every bedroom is equipped with its own sound system, allowing each child to choose their own music—an intentional opportunity that aligns with the unit’s trauma-informed model of care. The ARC (Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency) framework recognizes that many people suffer trauma and creates an atmosphere in which everyone feels safe, supported, and empowered.
“We know that by the time kids are 16-years-old, two out of three youth will have suffered a traumatic event. We do everything in a way not to re-traumatize children and their families,” explains Sarah Edwards, DO, assistant professor of Psychiatry and director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “For individuals who experienced trauma, it is really important for them to have opportunities to be in control. The music system allows them to have choice and control over their environment.”
The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Unit is equipped with this state-of-the-art sound system thanks to a combined philanthropic gift from three generous donors—Jeffrey Burgan, Mary and Harold Graul, and Chris McCalla. Their generosity enabled the purchase of this valuable piece of equipment, which will help to calm countless children experiencing a mental health crisis.
“I’m gratified that in some small way I can support the dedicated and talented doctors and professional staff at UMCH. This new innovative facility will enable them to deliver vital care to the children and adolescents throughout the Baltimore region.”
“Their gift means everything to us honestly,” says Dr. Edwards. “For individuals to donate to a children’s psychiatric unit, it really shows that they understand that children’s mental health matters. It means that these kids are valued.”
The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inpatient Unit treats children between the ages of 5 to 17 with a range of mental health disorders. Many of these children have also experienced a significant trauma such as abuse, neglect, or violence. A multidisciplinary team of specialists work round-the-clock with the children to stabilize their crisis and create a plan to help them succeed once they are discharged.
“Our job is never really to eliminate the stress or anxiety, but teach them how to deal with those issues,” explains Dr. Edwards. “We’re helping youth learn coping skills so that when they leave our unit, they have the beginning tools to help handle the stress.”
Listening to music is just one of several tools the unit uses to help children cope. It can alleviate stress, improve sleep, and inspire calm. When a child feels agitated or upset, they can retreat to their bedroom or to the sensory room, which also contains a music system as well as various lights, sensory objects, and rocking chairs. Here, they can listen to music or nature sounds and practice their coping skills.
“It’s wonderful music and a great sound system,” says Dr. Edwards. “We’re so grateful to the individuals who helped make it a reality.”