My Take: If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren’t crazy Tanya Marie (“T.M.”) Luhrmann is a psychological anthropologist and the Watkins University professor in the department of anthropology at Stanford University in Stanford, California. She is the author of “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God.” In the Bible, God spoke directly to Abraham. He spoke directly to Moses. He spoke directly to Job. But to your neighbor down the street?Most people reading the ancient scriptures understand these accounts of hearing God’s voice as miracles that really did happen but no longer take place today, or maybe as folkloric flourishes to ancient stories. Even Christians who believe that miracles can be an everyday affair can hesitate when someone tells them they heard God speak audibly. There’s an old joke: When you talk to God, we call it prayer, but when God talks to you, we call it schizophrenia. Except that usually it’s not. CNN (USA) 29th December 2012
The voices that helped Peter write a book A LOCAL man suffering from chronic schizophrenia has written a childrens book, using the advice and ideas from the voices in his head for inspiration. Peter Bullimore had heard voices for many years, leading to a diagnosis of chronic schizophrenia. After struggling with his condition, he used the voices to help him write A Village Called Pumpkin. Pete says: “I spent a decade in psychiatric services where no-one paid any attention to the content of my voices. The voices were always critical and abusive and never gave me any peace. Through the support of a very good occupational therapist Sally Bramley and the Hearing Voices Network I started to gain more insight into the voices and the meaning behind them.” Look Local (UK), 20th December, 2012
Schizophrenia’: Time to Discard the Diagnosis? Independent Inquiry into ‘Schizophrenia’ Label, over 80% of those who gave evidence believe diagnosis is damaging & dangerous. Mad in America (USA), 6th December 2012
Book reviews: Hearing Voices: The Histories, Causes and Meanings of Auditory Verbal Hallucinations by Simon McCarthy-Jones Hearing voices or having auditory verbal hallucinations and delusions is emblematic of psychosis. There is a sense in which both concepts are part of the infrastructure for modern psychiatry. Given the importance of hearing voices as a canonical concept in psychiatry, it is surprising that it has received little focused attention in its own right. In this book McCarthy-Jones has changed that. He has written a comprehensive, indeed encyclopedic text. His aim is to focus on four key areas: the varying history of hearing voices, its phenomenology, causes, and meaning. British Journal of Psychiatry (UK) 3rd Dec 2012
Hearing Voices: Jocelyn Pook The British composer discusses her unsettling, intimate and deeply personal new song cycle. Hearing Voices is based around an aural sleight of hand: it makes audible the internalised voices that people keep to themselves. Pook’s song cycle is about madness and the experiences of five separate women with hearing voices, but beyond that, it’s specifically about feminine madness and about the arena in which madness is presented and constrained. The Arts Desk (UK), 2nd December 2012
Turning Madness into Music Composer Jocelyn Pook’s new piece of music based on diary of great-aunt who heard voices & spent 25 years in asylum. Daily Telegraph (UK), 30th November 2012
New musical performance inspired by voice-hearing The composer Jocelyn Pook has taken inspiration from Gail Hornstein’s book Agnes’s Jacket in creating a new dramatised song cycle, ‘Hearing Voices’. The Guardian (UK), 27th November 2012
Mental illness at work: the last taboo Mental illness – be it schizophrenia, depression, autism or OCD – needn’t be the end of a career. Far from it, say these women. Covering up at work has never been an issue for Rachel Waddingham, 34, who lives with her husband in south-east London. ‘Everyone knows,’ she says, ‘and it’s not the most important thing about me.’ Waddingham says that, of all the mental-health conditions, hers – schizophrenia – carries the most stigma. ‘I am at the severe end of the spectrum where most employers won’t give people a chance . It shouldn’t be like that. It was amazing to see the MPs come out and talk about their issues. But the day an MP talks about hearing voices will be the really big day for me.’ Waddingham works full-time managing support groups for people who are affected by psychosis and hear voices, including one in Holloway Prison. She also trains mental-health professionals and is studying for an MSc in psychological research methods. In her spare time she sings in pubs. Daily Telegraph, 12th November, 2012
Seeing Things? Hearing Things? Many of Us Do In other cultures, hallucinations have been regarded as gifts from the gods or the Muses, but in modern times they seem to carry an ominous significance in the public (and also the medical) mind, as portents of severe mental or neurological disorders. Having hallucinations is a fearful secret for many people — millions of people — never to be mentioned, hardly to be acknowledged to oneself, and yet far from uncommon. The vast majority are benign — and, indeed, in many circumstances, perfectly normal. Most of us have experienced them from time to time, during a fever or with the sensory monotony of a desert or empty road, or sometimes, seemingly, out of the blue.
Hallucinations (of sight, sound, smell or other sensations) can be associated with migraine or seizures, with fever or delirium. In chronic disease hospitals, nursing homes, and I.C.U.’s, hallucinations are often a result of too many medications and interactions between them, compounded by illness, anxiety and unfamiliar surroundings.
But hallucinations can have a positive and comforting role, too — this is especially true with bereavement hallucinations, seeing the face or hearing the voice of one’s deceased spouse, siblings, parents or child — and may play an important part in the mourning process. Such bereavement hallucinations frequently occur in the first year or two of bereavement, when they are most “needed.”
While many people with schizophrenia do hear voices at certain times in their lives, the inverse is not true: most people who hear voices (as much as 10 percent of the population) are not mentally ill. For them, hearing voices is a normal mode of experience.Written by Oliver Sack, professor of neurology at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine and the author, most recently, of the forthcoming book “Hallucinations.”New York Times (USA), 3rd November 2012
Childhood adversity affects adult brain and body functions Researchers find Poverty can impair working memory while physical abuse can raise risk of cardiovascular disease, scientists claim. If socio-ecomic adversity in childhood is to blame, then we should change society and not use drugs. The Guardian (UK), 16th October 2012
The inner noise sublimation: Can hearing voices be normal? In this article, Marika Ciuffa discusses proposed changes in the way psychiatrists understand and interpret auditory hallucinations. How can people manage with the unusual experience of hearing voices? A study conducted by Dr Heriot-Maitland and colleagues, published this year in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, evaluated the nature and context of psychotic-like phenomena in people who did (clinical) or did not (non-clinical) go on to use mental health services. People in both groups experienced these phenomena during periods of significant negative emotion, sometimes associated with isolation and concern about the meaning of their existence. However, the non-clinical group showed greater ability to make sense of these experiences in their lives, considering them to be transient and enhancing, not dangerous.
International associations like Intervoice (International network for training, education and research into hearing voices) share this non-pathological vision of the phenomenon, fighting against prejudice and the stigmatisation of mental illness. They aim to support people to manage this “normal though unusual variation in human behaviour”, underlining that “the problem is not hearing voices but the inability to cope with the experience”.
However, while it may be true that hearing voices does not necessarily imply mental illness, particularly in childhood, in other cases we could risk underestimating a considerable problem if people choose not to seek help or advice. It shouldn’t be forgotten that individuals with psychotic-like experiences are at significantly increased risk of clinical psychotic disorders, which can have severe effects on health and quality of life.
What, then, is the right response? Can Joan of Arc and other famous historical and religious figures who lived with auditory hallucinations simply be considered psychotic? My impression is that we are moving away from a strict psychiatric interpretation, based on outdated models of mental illness, of the spectrum of human experiences.
This new awareness could encourage people to speak out, allowing a better evaluation of the extent of the phenomenon. The inner noise debate is still open, and we need to listen more to the people who hear voices. Wellcome Trust (UK), 16th October 2012
Haunted by the voices Sir Anthony Hopkins heard them. So did Martin Luther King, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc and Socrates. These well-known identities have all reported hearing voices – a phenomenon which is reasonably common, with 4-10 per cent of the population admitting to it. It is an accepted fact of life among various indigenous groups, including North American Indians and Aboriginals, and its prevalence worldwide prompted the establishment late last century of a Hearing Voices Network People who experience it are called voice hearers by the hearing voices movement, although many may also have visual, smelling, feeling and other sensations.In psychiatry, people who are disturbed by voices are described as having auditory hallucinations and those who have visions as having visual hallucinations. They may be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The Hearing Voices Network was introduced in Australia in 2005 by the Richmond Fellowship of WA (RFWA). Yahoo News (Australia), 23rd August, 2012
Just accept it: The voices are real Instead of denying the “delusions” and “hallucinations” experienced by her patients, a clinical psychologist describes the transformative and healing power gained by accepting these voices as real.”The United States seems poised and at its most receptive to these new perspectives on voice hearing. In January 2012, when I attended the HVN training, I expected to be one of the few mental health professionals, assuming that voice hearers and peer advocates would be in the majority. I was surprised that most of the attendees were from various mental health and social service agencies and that the professionals and paraprofessionals outnumbered the consumers.” Behavioral Healthcare August 9, 2012
A call to listen to the inner voice To help Christians in all our churches to engage more fruitfully with those suffering mental distress, Norfolk Christian magistrate and social psychologist John Myhill draws on his own professional experiences. “One reason I am a Quaker is that I have a very positive inner voice, guiding me through difficult moments. Escher and Romme showed that such a positive experience of voices could be very helpful to those who experience of voices has led to mental distress. So in the 1990s I became involved in the ‘Hearing Voices Network’ and got to know some very remarkable individuals, some of the best friends I have had. Whilst my professional contacts have given me a huge concern for the suffering of people with a mental illness label, when I became accepted as an equal, as a friend, it was their ability, rather than their distress which impressed me. I want to give you a flavour of what it may be like to hear voices, and I will do this by presenting points of contact; places where their experience may be similar to yours. I do this in the hope that you will listen carefully next time you meet a voice hearer, so that you may benefit from the wisdom beneath the pain.” Network Norwich (UK), July 12th, 2012
The Experience of Voice Hearers: Understanding vs. Suppression Those experiencing extreme states such as voice hearing are often misunderstood. When we do not understand or wish to dismiss the other, the tactic is to categorize first, and label the other, and put them in a group alienated from ourselves. We create a we vs. them, and we can feel justified in not dealing with them, and we continue on in our ignorance. There is that space between the spirits and minds, and the distance of this space is based on cumulative traumas and oppression. To enter this space comes with risk, and it is a dangerous territory, but once the journey is made, then there can be that joining of two persons in understanding, humanity, trust, and love. Psychology Today, 19th June 2012
New help for those tormented by ‘voices’ Melissa Roberts was 14 when she began hearing voices. She was terrified of “Ron”, a male voice who told her to kill her family. Her parents, Bruce and Faye Roberts, of Woronora Heights, did everything they could to seek treatment for their daughter and help her live a normal life. Melissa took her own life on August 26, 2010. She was 27. The Roberts family have now established the Melissa Roberts Foundation for people who suffer the torment of hearing distressing voices. The foundation acts as a fund-raising entity for the Hearing Voices Network NSW (HOPE), a health promotion charity that Mr Roberts, 60, helped establish in 2008. St George and Sunderland Shire Leader (Australia) June 8, 2012
Hearing voices in your head? You are not alone We all hear voices in our head in the form of an inner voice or thinking as one caller put it. But some people ‘hear’ the voices in a more unsettling way. Indigo Daya is the Project Manager for Voices Victoria and suggests the worst part of hearing voices is the stigma and the isolation and suggests that you should seek someone to talk to rather than enduring alone. ABC Radio (Australia) May 18th, 2012
The Hearing Voices Movement: Has it Really Been 25 years? Can you hear voices and be healthy? Can people who hear overwhelming and distressing voices be assisted to find ways to live successfully with their voices? The hearing voices approach originating in Europe and developed in partnership with voice hearers indicates that this is indeed the case. Madness in America (USA), 2nd May 2012
RCSI study finds that over 20% of children report hearing voices Hearing voices may affect over a fifth of schoolchildren aged 11 to 13, a psychiatric study has found. In most cases, the auditory hallucinations stop with time, the findings show. But children who continue to hear voices could be at risk of mental illness or behavioural disorders. Researchers carried out psychiatric assessments of almost 2,500 children aged between 11 and 16 in Dublin. RTE (Ireland), 13th April, 2012
Fifth of children hear voices in their head: A fifth of schoolchildren children aged 11 to 13 may hear voices in their head, a psychiatric study has found.Just 7% of older adolescents aged 13 to 16 reported hearing voices and almost 80% of those who did had a diagnosable psychological problem . In most cases, the auditory hallucinations stop with time, the findings show. But children who continue to hear voices could be at risk of mental illness or behavioural disorders. Researchers carried out psychiatric assessments of almost 2,500 children aged between 11 and 16 in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. They discovered that 21%-23% of younger adolescents, aged 11 to 13, had experienced auditory hallucinations. Of this group, just over half were found to have a non-psychotic psychiatric disorder such as depression.
Just 7% of older adolescents aged 13 to 16 reported hearing voices – but almost 80% of those who did had a diagnosable psychological problem.
Lead researcher Dr Ian Kelleher, from the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RSCI), said: ”We found that auditory hallucinations were common even in children as young as 11 years old. Auditory hallucinations can vary from hearing an isolated sentence now and then, to hearing ‘conversations’ between two or more people lasting for a several minutes. Daily Telegraph, 12th April 2012
More than 20% of Irish children ‘hear voices’ Children who continue to hear voices could be at risk of mental illness or behavioural disorders. More than one in five Irish children between 11 and 13 have reported hearing voices, a sign some experts believe is a risk factor in mental illness. The claim is made in a British Journal of Psychiatry study. The published findings suggest that, in most cases, the auditory hallucinations stop with time. However, children who continue to hear voices could be at risk of mental illness or behavioural disorders. BBC News (UK), 12th April, 2012
One In Five Children ‘May Hear Voices’ Hearing voices may affect up to a fifth of schoolchildren aged 11 to 13, a psychiatric study has found. In most cases, the auditory hallucinations stop with time, the findings show. But children who continue to hear voices could be at risk of mental illness or behavioural disorders. Researchers carried out psychiatric assessments of almost 2,500 children aged between 11 and 16 in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. They discovered that 21%-23% of younger adolescents, aged 11 to 13, had experienced auditory hallucinations. Of this group, just over half were found to have a non-psychotic psychiatric disorder such as depression. Just 7% of older adolescents aged 13 to 16 reported hearing voices – but almost 80% of those who did had a diagnosable psychological problem.. Huffington Post, October 18th, 2012