Hywel Davies and John Stacey, IMHCN members support a group for people who hear voices in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales. In this article they describe how the group operates, the successful outscomes and the implications for mental health services.
As a group of friends we set up a hearing voices group initially facilitated by John Stacey “IMHCN” and Hywel Davies “Hearing Voices Cymru”.
What started off as a group of voice hearers getting together rapidly evolved into a group of people that hear voices, have visions or have other experiences that others may find difficult to accept or understand. As one of the group stated recently “Its not like any other group we are just individuals that meet to give support and encouragement to one another”.
The meetings have no formal structure and are founded on acceptance, learning, recovery and discovery. The emphasis of the group is not to challenge or change individuals beliefs or understanding of their experiences. Though these may change over time. The main focus is to assist one another to create a different relationship and response to our experiences. Enabling us to be comfortable with whom we are and take back control of our lives.
Having unrestricted access to John allowing members to contact him if they have feelings of concern is recognised as a reassuring asset to the members. This support has reduced the need for some of the group from contacting emergency services. Over the past two years this has not been abused and as one person stated “its reassuring just know I have somebody who understands to call”.
In this social and trusting environment people state that they are not inhibited in their disclosures to one another. During our conversations individuals feel able to explore the appropriateness of their diagnosis also the effectiveness and dose of their medication. We feel it is important to discuss how to involve their mental health workers and psychiatrists in these conversations.
The group is now exploring how it can develop, provide and extend what we are doing to enable more opportunities, encompassing their whole lives.
The success of the group raises questions about how mental health services are often failing to provide time and space for people and to develop reciprocal trusting relationships and support.
John Stacey and Hywel Davies