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Book Review

Scream Therapy: A Punk Journey Through Mental Health

Scream Therapy

May 1, 2023

I met Jason Schreurs years ago, although I’ve never met Jason. We began emailing back and forth about having the site host his new podcast, Scream Therapy, in which he would interview band members about mental health. I loved the idea instantly and we ran with it together posting and hosting his episodes every other week. Down the line, when Jason informed me that he had been writing a book which outlines his journey, I knew that was not only the next logical step in the process, but it would also be a necessary read.

Scream Therapy is very much Jason Schreurs’ journey. If you can relate, great. If you cannot, okay. Just keep reading because what he tackles throughout the 250+ pages is important. It is the story of his discovery of Punk music and the lifestyle choices – both positive and negative – that accompany it. It touches on the highs (community, a sense of self, freedom of expression, the inflated manic feeling of being on top of the world) and the lows (alcohol and drug addiction, broken relationships, abuse, trauma, and depression so deep you can barely move) of the community that we share.

The book weaves three separate storylines together as you go. The first is that of Jason himself. Jason is a little over a decade my senior, so some of the things that he speaks of regarding the genre come from a time I WISH I had experienced. He sketches a mental image of his formative Punk years filled with Skate Punk mixtapes, hand-me-down Minor Threat shirts, and latchkey kid anti-authoritarian freedom. But soon, the story begins to darken as an undiagnosed mental condition slowly surfaces along with addiction tendencies and erratic behavior, ultimately culminating in a breakdown. Jason bravely dives into the depths of his trauma armed with a bright, self-reflective light and emerges with a plan to help others, and in turn himself. This recovery journey is set to a playlist featuring Spanish Love Songs, The Menzingers, Converge, Hot Water Music, and more.

The second story, or more correctly stories, are those told by some of the guests that Jason has interviewed on the Scream Therapy podcast over the years. Some of the guests are well known heavy hitters, some are therapists and others who are psychologically trained, and some are your run of the mill punks with deep seeded trauma issues. None are more or less important and all have stories to tell. The Punk scene is a microcosm of society; it is a place where we are supposed to be more progressive, more caring, more healing. But it also includes some of the most injured and damaged people. Jason’s work, both the book and the podcast episodes, show how many punks have severe trauma, which also shows us that we are not alone in our darkest struggles.

And the final story is an on-the-road tour diary account of a one-man band, Punk Jams, backed by a rotating cast of characters. The Punk Jams story line became one of my favorites because, through it, Jason is able to show the absolute insanity of what an amazing all-out Punk show looks, feels, and even smells like. As I was reading, I could see the small venues that the band would play, locals posted up at the bar, muttering derogatory terms under their breaths at the start of the set, but whooping and hollering by the end. I could picture the bag of costumes that the lead singer pulls from each night, resulting in headscarves as arm bands and underwear as a mask. Based on these stories alone, Punk Jams is my new favorite band that I have never seen and haven’t even heard and am not 100% certain is even real!

On a personal note, when I picked up Scream Therapy, all I could think was that I was no longer the target demographic for this book. I have my own podcast about the music scene… which varies greatly from Jason’s. He focuses on finding the light in the dark. My co-host Rich and I spend time inspecting the dark and speaking about it in hopes to keep people safe from others who refuse to acknowledge their demons. I have lived in that world of Punk for over two years. Add in a little dash of international pandemic and almost three years of sobriety and the person I am now is lightyears away from my 2019 version. And honestly, I have spent the last three years grappling with my own trauma, abuse, and mental health issues, many of which were perpetuated by the scene discussed. But, as I poured through the book (which I finished in less than three days), some of the old neurons began firing again. Jason’s stories reminded me that there are two sides to every coin – the dark and the light, the manic and the depressive. For every shitty predatory band douche, there’s 100 great people who – like Jason and like me – have screamed along to a band at the top of our lungs somewhere in Gainesville, FL in an act of band-aiding our wounds. With that realization, I began to miss and crave things that I thought that I would never return to again.

While I embarked on this review because I told Jason that I would be elated to read his book, a favor for a friend, it turns out that Jason’s book ultimately did a favor for me. Jason’s candid journey gave me perspective on this altered version of myself that I have cultivated and reminded me of where I aim to go in this community, which has always been there for me. Therapy, indeed.

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