Scream Therapy: A Punk Journey through Mental Health by Jason Schreurs

The amygdala is an almond-sized cluster situated deep within your brain. It is referred to as the “seat of emotion” for its role in processing core emotions such as joy and anger. When one is cursed with traumatic life events such as childhood sexual abuse, the amygdala imprints this memory repressed or otherwise, as if it were dooming your nervous system to a lifelong plane ride of severe turbulence. 

Usually when I take time to review books, it’s a reward. In this case, a nice reading break from my undergrad psychology studies. However, and fortuitously I might add, this book landed in my inbox perhaps based on my bio. Drummer? check. West-coast-based? Check. Fellow writer? Well, yeah. I think that was it for qualifiers. I could be wrong.

“You don’t need to be a lover of the punk rock music genre to become fully absorbed in Schreurs’ memoir.”

While I was reading Jason Schreurs’ striking and – if you were to convert this into a 10 episode TV script – bingeworthy combination memoir and love letter to fellow punk outcasts of all generations, I reflected on the 2020 passing of Ken Chinn, a.k.a., Mr. Chi Pig, most famously known from an Edmonton-Vancouver punk band called SNFU. In what is a common thread amongst punk musicians, Ken also suffered from severe depression. During the height of the pandemic, I walked by one of the last places he frequented near Vancouver’s downtown eastside (see: poorest postal code in Canada), Pub 340, with its politely graffiti’d tribute to Chi Pig. I am sure there are many more like him; a known name in the community, some who has influenced punk culture for decades, and yet another soul gone too soon and deeply missed.

If you head over to Schreurs’ website to check out his Scream Therapy podcast, he in fact encourages you “judge his book by its cover”. When you see the words “Scream Therapy” you might be tempted to google “Can cursing relieve pain?” The answer is yes, but that’s not what this book is about. You don’t need to be a lover of the punk rock music genre to become fully absorbed in Schreurs’ memoir. While his identity is deeply enmeshed in punk/skate culture since mid adolescence, he writes passionately about punk creatives trying to survive along a spectrum of mental health conditions. In between interviews with punk rock icons like Melvins lead singer Buzz Osborn and punk-identifying mental health therapists like Blythe TwoSisters, we are given a guts-and-all view of the turmoil Schreurs has endured and still battles today. There is a familiar descent into the unbalanced, and the “how did I get here” moment which happens when creatives allow their art to channel and emerge through their bodies. Schreurs’ experiences are full bodied and riddled with memory lapses when he describes his own journey on stage. He’s been a man possessed in varying degrees during performances, screaming through past traumas as a means of therapy, largely unbeknownst to the voracious mosh pit crowds flailing before him while desperately trying to decode his vocals.

His personal stories are written with carefully crafted timeline bounces between the near future, the past, and a harrowing nine small cities tour starting from Campbell River, BC, eventually cutting through the armpit of Vancouver Island, Port Alberni enroute to the edge of the world wildness of Ucluelet. He’s also shared his research into peer-reviewed medical studies and interviews with cohorts and various mental health professionals on the subject of bipolar diagnosis.

In Schreurs’ own words, “undercover punk” best describes a facade for those of us who toil away in soul-grinding corporate jobs. It can be a source of debilitating cognitive dissonance, How do you live with yourself when part of you feels compelled to conform to society norms for the sake of being a responsible grownup, while the majority ruling party of your brain is screaming to breath and just be you? For the memoir narrative, Schreur uses second person voice. He allows you to boldly try on his shoes, both lace up Converse, duct taped across the chewed up soles, and 9 to 5-approved black dress shoes. As the “you”, you’re not the passenger. You’re the driver, abruptly losing control in multiple head on crashes, and surviving to tell the tale. 

Schreurs wraps his work nicely with a self-interview of sorts. The duct taped hero of this story is still alive and well as can be in Powell River, BC, a city that houses the accessible-only-to-those-with-financial-means Sunshine Coast Health Centre. Punks are not immune to the anxiety-fuelled social media toxicity of obsessive scrolling and rant-posting. Just like alcoholism, it is an addiction. Schreurs has so far managed to kick that dog to the curb as well. We’ll keep rooting for this writer to be alright, and keep writing. Scream on!

Jason Schreurs is a music and mental health writer, host of the internationally renowned Scream Therapy podcast, and self-proclaimed punk weirdo living in Powell River, BC, a small coastal town on the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation. He has contributed to Visions Journal (Canadian Mental Health Association), Transition Magazine (Disability Alliance BC), OC87 Recovery Diaries, New Noise Magazine, Noisey (Vice), Alternative Press, and Exclaim! He is a recent graduate of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction Program at the University of King’s College.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Flex Your Head Press (May 1 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 252 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771262869
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1738921409

Mala Rai is a poet, drummer, psychology student, and technical writing hired gun on the West Coast. Her most recent poems have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, High Shelf Press, and Anti-Heroin Chic. You can follow her on Instagram @malaraipoetry