Media 2013

2013

December

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 17.05.38I hear voices in my head: How a mental health nurse helps others live with the condition Mental health nurse John Robinson teaches others to manage the condition after living with it since childhood. As a mental health nurse, care co-ordinator and specialist he is more than just an expert on the subject. He understands his patients’ anguish only too well because he hears them too. “I’ve heard voices for as long as I can remember,” explains the 62-year-old. “It’s more common than you’d imagine, affecting two to four per cent of the British population. “However some estimates suggest that up to 16 per cent of people live with voices without ever seeking or even needing help.” He says for many people, the voices can start off being friendly but over time become negative, critical, sinister and threatening. “People can wait years before coming to a group but it’s amazing how quickly they relax and open up.” And his advice to others? Find someone you can talk to, your GP or the Hearing Voices Network (hearing-voices.org). John says: “No matter how fearful or isolated you feel, you do not have to be on your own.” Daily Express (UK), 31st December 2013

Is It Possible To Live With The Voices In Your Head? Eleanor Longden spent many years in the psychiatric system before earning a BSc and an MSc in psychology at the University of Leeds. She argues that schizophrenia is a “creative and ingenious survival strategy” that should be seen “as [a] complex, significant, and meaningful experience to be explored.” Longden is studying for her PhD and lectures and writes about recovery-oriented approaches to psychosis, dissociation and complex trauma TED (USA) December 20th, 2013

The Violence in our Heads Culture has a big impact on how people with schizophrenia experience hearing voices, and that respecting but challenging the voices can diminish them, make them kinder, or make them go away completely. New York Times (USA), 19th September 2013

Bullied children more likely to hallucinate or hear voices Children who are bullied at school are more likely to have heard voices, have seen hallucinations or be paranoid than those who were not, a study by the Universities of Warwick and Bristol have found. Researchers found that children who were bullied over a number of years were up to four and a half times more likely to have suffered from psychotic experiences by the age of 18. Pupils who only experienced bullying for brief periods were also at increased risk for psychotic experiences. The study is the first to report the long term impact of being involved in bullying during childhood on mental problems in late adolescence or adulthood. Daily Telegraph (UK), 17th September 2013

Childhood Bullying Linked to Psychosis Research from the U.K. shows that involvement in bullying between the ages of 8 and 11, whether as victim or perpetrator, is linked to an increased risk of psychotic experiences at the age of 18. Mad in America (USA), 17th December 2013

What Would Mandela Say to the Man Hearing Voices? A sign language interpreter hearing voices has caught everyone off guard while on the job at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Thamsanqa Jantjiehe was as surprised as anyone else by the voices that crashed the party. These voices don’t call ahead, you see. At the most inopportune times, they crash the head. The word “unbelievable” is our most overused adjective, but this story truly was. Thus the world was atwitter Thursday that a man with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and a mental health history of violence had been on stage right beside President Obama–the politely unstated subtext here is that a schizo was within stabbing distance of the leader of the free world despite the highest security ever. Jantjiehe’s widely misunderstood psychotic episode has seen the deaf and mental illness communities lining up on opposite sides. Meanwhile, cue the late night talk show jokes. To me, the missing sidebar iis, what would Mandela have done? What would the Great Man have told the world about this poor man disabled by voices? And what kind words might he have had for the man himself? I can almost see Mandela smiling down on us. There’s no doubt he’d have shown interest in his experience. Surely he would have a compassionate ear tuned to this man’s plight. An inquisitive man, Mandela might’ve asked Jantjie if the deaf are able to hear voices when they’re hallucinating. They do, by they way, though only those who’ve heard sound before. Others see images of people signing or of lips moving. PsychCentral.com (USA, 13th December 2013

A psychiatrist thinks some patients are better off without antipsychotic drugs “Two years ago, I decided to invite my patients into this conversation. I explain to them what I have read and what conclusions I have drawn, as well as the conflicting views of other psychiatrists. I have been monitoring those who have chosen to wean themselves from the antipsychotic drugs they have been taking, in some cases for 20 years or more. What has been most striking is that my patients make careful and deliberate decision” Washington Post (USA), 9th December 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 16.38.19Sounds Mad What do you hear when you stop and listen to what’s going on in your head? A song that was on the radio yesterday? A snippet of this mornings conversation with your sister? Or nothing….? Are you debating the best route to take home? Are you saying a prayer? What does that sound like?

Jacqui Dillon hears voices. In her head. Lots of them.Voices that sound as real as you or me. Voices that wake her up. Voices that tell her to go to sleep. Voices that disagree with her, and voices that encourage her. And the voices have been there for as long as she can remember.So you might think Jacqui is mad, but this is the story of a woman who has come a long way with the voices in her head.
Twenty years ago Jaqqui’s experience of her voices drove her to psychiatric services…. and that’s where the story really begins because it was when she was told that the voices weren’t real, and that she was lying about her past that she really began to get mad. And that’s when Jacqui realised she had to learn to live with her voices and understand why they were there. This is a story about hearing voices and about learning to live with them. A story about how your past shapes your future until you start to understand it . RTE (Ireland), 7th December 2013


November

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 17.02.13Hearing voices in our heads is more common (and less ‘crazy’) than we think Supportive article featuring Eleanor Longden, Peter Bullimore and the Hearing The Voice Research Project.

One of the myths about hearing voices is that everyone who experiences them is mentally ill. In fact, a range of studies indicate that about 1 in 20 people regularly hear voices in their head, many of whom have no need for treatment. The rush to label voice hearers as ‘crazy’ appears to be abating.
Little is known about the exact reasons for hearing voices. An international team of researchers, led by British experts at Durham University and backed by the Wellcome Trust, is aiming to delve deeper into what happens when people hear voices.

It wants to find out what the experience of hearing voices is actually like for people and, in cases where clinical help is sought, what are the best approaches. The research project is called Hearing the Voice and involves neuroscientists, health practitioners, psychiatrists and voice hearers.
‘Many people think that voice hearing is just a symptom of severe mental illness like schizophrenia or psychosis, but what they don’t know is that hearing voices is also an important aspect of many ordinary people’s lives,’ said Charles Fernyhough, professor of psychology at Durham University and the project’s director. The Metro (UK), 12th Nov 2013

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It’s time to listen to the voices in your head Voice-hearing is no longer seen merely as a psychiatric disorder, and could teach us a lot about how language operates in the brain. In the popular imagination voice-hearing is often viewed with fear and suspicion, frequently reified as a chaotic, corrupted symptom of illness. But that is changing, with a growing acceptance of voice-hearing as a profoundly human experience that can no longer be reduced to a mere symptom of psychiatric disorder. The work of Intervoice: The International Hearing Voices Network, and the enthusiastic response to Eleanor Longden’s 2013 TED talk, which recounts her own journey to recovery from a demoralising psychiatric diagnosis, indicate the growing possibilities for people living with the experience to raise their voices with a sense of power and pride.The Guardian (UK), 8th November 2o13


October

Voices and Visions and … Schizophrenia? What does it mean to hear voices? Is someone who hears voices and sees visions necessarily schizophrenic, or could these hallucinations, as they are commonly called, simply be another of the myriad ways the human psyche responds to traumatic life experiences?
Groups like Intervoice, which is also known as The International Network for Training, Education, and Research into Hearing Voices, are devoted to raising awareness of what it means to hear voices–an experience that is far more common than most people believe.
And yet, despite increased global consciousness regarding voices and visions, the fact remains that the majority of individuals who show up in psychiatrists’ offices saying they hear and see things that no one else sees or hears are likely to receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, this often leads to long periods of psychiatric care that may cause further damage to these individuals’ psyches. GoodTherapy (USA) 25th October 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 16.59.56Two more successful Hearing Voices Group Facilitation Workshops The training was facilitated by Jacqui Dillon, who is a campaigner, writer, international speaker and trainer specialising in hearing voices, ‘psychosis’, dissociation, trauma, abuse, healing and recovery. Jacqui is the National Chair of the Hearing Voices Network in England and a Board member of Intervoice – the International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices. Jacqui holds a number of Honorary Lectureships. The two 3-day workshops were attended by 51 people with representation from voice hearers and mental health workers (nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, art therapists, clinical psychologists, support workers). The attendees came mainly from Cork, but there were also attendees from Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick) .There is an ever growing body of evidence to support the effectiveness of Hearing Voices Groups. Hearing Voices Groups offer a safe place for people to feel accepted and comfortable sharing their experiences of voices, visions, tactile sensations and other unusual experiences and perceptions.

Following on from last year’s workshop, a number of Hearing Voices Support Groups have been set up in Cork, and anecdotal evidence and participants’ testimonials indicates that these groups are beneficial and empowering. It was good to see a number of voice hearers at the workshops, who are attending these groups. They will now go on and become co-facilitators in the groups. Indeed, the overall aim of the programme was to provide the participants knowledge and skills necessary to facilitate a Hearing Voices Support Group.

Participants’ feedback indicated that the 3-day programme was a very positive, powerful, intensive and moving experience, in which new insights were gained into the understanding of voice hearing and in working with voice hearers, beyond the traditional bio-psychiatric understanding. University College Cork (Ireland) 22nd October 2013

 


September

Hearing Voices More Common Than You Think Rhonda Martin, Clinical Counselor talks with Gordon Deal this morning to break down why the Navy Yard Shooter was not alone when it came to hearing voices. Wall Street Journal, 19th September 2013

Gunman Cried Out for Help With Voices A portrait has emerged of a man and the voices that tormented him into taking away a dozen lives at the Washington Naval Yard on Monday. 34 year-old Aaron Alexis was aware that he needed help—and even sought it out from a Buddhist temple in Raynham, Massachusetts, where he turned up speaking fluent Thai. The monk he met, who does not speak English, said in Thai through another monk that he was “respectful but troubled.” He said he could see in his eyes that he needed help. “He’s saying something bother him in his head,” the monk said in broken English. “Like, I saw someone, I saw someone.”
The temple had no bed to offer, but allowed him to curl up on the floor of a building opposite. In the morning, Alexis thanked him, said goodbye politely, and moved on. No one is saying why the computer technician sought out Buddhists in the first place before he started firing indiscernably at the Washington Naval Yard. Maybe he was drawn to the practice of meditation as a refuge from his murderous voices. Maybe he was hoping to cloister himself within the safety of ascetism, the better to keep the worst of his voices away from us. Our hearts go out especially to his grieving mother along with all friends and family of all victims. His mother apologized emotionally on behalf of her troubled son. If her son declined help from mainstream psychiatry, then he might’ve been battling the assumption there that these voices are not all that significant. Were he in Europe, he might’ve had help at some point in “dialoguing” with his voices. This approach, which is seen as irresponsible in many American psychiatric circles, involves actually setting aside time to talk with your voices. Yet in Europe, where people with a diagnosis are said to be reclaiming their lives by the tens of thousands, it’s increasingly the new model, the brain child of Dr. Marius Romme, a Dutch psychiatrist who set up the first meetings for voice hearers in the Netherlands on a dare from a patient who was unhappy that her experience was not being taken seriously. The first meeting of the Hearing Voices Network was held in Holland in 1989. The movement has flourished in the United Kingdom. There 160 plus have been set up for voice hearers to share freely in a nonjudgmental setting. I was impressed with what I saw at one meeting in Galway. People spoke frankly and insightfully about voices as variable as the people we meet in the actual world — male and female, young and old, rude and charming. PsychCentral.com, 19th September 2013

Voices, Then & Now Ron ColemanMy support worker had convinced me to go to a new group that was starting in Manchester called a hearing voices group.Going to that group changed my life. As someone who had been tormented for years by negative voices, being part of the group gave me the hope to go forward. It allowed me to see my experience as something real, and therefore something that could be understood.Sitting here now twenty-something years later I can see the beginnings of our movement.” Madness in America (USA), 14th September 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 18.25.54A friendly ear for those hearing voices Kellie Comans, Kelly Bayley and Sarah Sewell all hear voices. They’ve been told they’re crazy, that they need to “up their medication”. But there’s nothing strange about them — they simply hear voices. “I work full-time, I have a boyfriend, I have a beautiful life and I’m normal,” Ms Comans said. “It’s said that we’re fighting the last civil rights movement to be accepted, and we do see it that way. “We get judged, it can go on our records, it can affect jobs, it can affect anything. “But the three of us, we don’t pay any attention to our diagnosis, it’s not relevant to who we are, what we’re capable of or what we want to do — we’re Kellie, Sarah and Kelly.” On Saturday, Intervoice World Hearing Voices Day, the trio met in QEII Square and offered support to those who may also be hearing voices, with Intervoice claiming up to 13 per cent of people can hear voices others can’t. The Border Mail (Australia), 16th September 2013

Psychiatry and Hearing Voices: A Dialogue With Eleanor Longden Allen Frances: This could be one of my most important blogs. It is an attempt to find common ground between psychiatry and the Hearing Voices Movement (HVM) — a growing international grassroots effort to help people find meaning in their troubling experiences. The dialogue began when Eleanor Longden gave a wonderful TED Talk (The Voices in my Head) viewed nearly a million times since its release last month . The editors at Huffington Post then invited me to comment on her talk (Psychiatry and Recovery: Finding Common Ground and Joining Forces.) I was enormously impressed by Ms Longden and have always looked favourably on the HVM, but did express the concern that some viewers who really need psychiatric medicine might misinterpret her talk as an invitation to stop taking it. Huffington Post, 9th September 2013

Creating Alternatives to the Medical Model How do we turn an idea for an alternative to conventional mental health services into reality’? Madness in America (USA), 7th September 2013

Hearing voices – Ron’s story Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist. The patient aged 51 was abused by a priest as a child. He first heard voices at work and over the following ten years he spent six of them in in-patient care. He went to the Hearing Voices network in 1991 and began his recovery journey. He now works in the field of mental health. Health Direct Australia, September 2013


August

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 11.17.17 Guiding Voices, Trauma-Induced Voices Chaya Grossberg “I have facilitated support groups and worked one-on-one with those who hear voices for nearly 10 years.. The insights I’ve come to from my own experience have often facilitated understanding for others. Here is what I have learned from my experience of hearing voices.” Myths can be more harmful than lies, Nobel laureate Harry Kroto has said, because they are more difficult to recognize and often go unexamined. For many years, a diagnosis of schizophrenia was like a prison sentence, because many people (some of them in the medical profession) held to the notion that a schizophrenic could not recover from the illness and was condemned to an inexorable decline into madness.Like any myth, this one had some truth to it. Many people with severe symptoms do not recover. But some can, as Eleanor Longden discovered for herself. Mad in America (USA), 25th August 2013

The Most Common (And Dangerous) Market Research Mistake While in college, psychologist Eleanor Longden sought help from a psychiatrist as she tried to deal with symptoms of schizophrenia. When one appointment ran very late, she excused herself, telling the doctor, “I’m reading the news at six.” The psychiatrist duly recorded that Ms. Longden had “delusions of being a television news broadcaster.” In fact, Longden really did have to read the news on a student-run TV station, as she describes in Scientific American Mind. This story is both amusing and appalling, all the more so because one wouldn’t expect a trained psychiatrist to make assumptions or jump to unwarranted conclusions. The gross misinterpretation by the psychiatrist is an example of confirmation bias. She was expecting to find evidence of mental illness in her patient, and as a result viewed the slightly improbable news-reading comment as a delusion. The psychiatrist made no effort to clarify the statement. One quick question to explore the topic, or even a shrink-talk, “Oh?” would have revealed the simple, factual explanation. If a skilled psychiatrist, trained to look for small nuances in patient statements, can make this kind of egregious mistake, do you think marketers, could, too? Forbes, 21st August 2013

Coping With Schizophrenia By Listening Eleanor Longden was just like any other university student that is consumed by class, work and relationships. That is until she began hearing a voice inside her head. At first it was neutral and unobtrusive, a quiet voice that narrated her actions. But increasingly it grew louder and more aggressive, dictating her behavior and disrupting her natural train of thought. Longden was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized, before being essentially discarded by a mental health system that was unsure of how to help her. So instead Longden began to help herself, listening to and interpreting the voices she once battled in order to learn and grow from them. The Take Away, 15th August 2013

Anyone who’s suffered from mental illness (or known someone who has) must watch Eleanor Longden’s TED Talk Eleanor Longdon was a college student when she began hearing a totally neutral voice in her head that would narrate her daily going ons in the third person. “She is leaving the room.” She is going to the lecture.” Longdon’s relationship with this innocuous narrator eventually turned into what she called a “psychic civil war” where the voices multiplied, becoming both her “persecutors and her only perceived companions.” This eventually led to a diagnosis of schizophrenia and complete mental unraveling, which caused her to go so far once as to try to drill a hole in her head to get rid of the voices.
In this inspiring TED talk, Longdon shares her arduous journey from the throes of severe mental illness to full recovery. Once she had emerged from her nightmarish existence, she returned to psychiatry, but from the other side, earning her masters in psychology and focusing in recovery-oriented approaches to psychosis. Longdon says she eventually arrived at the conclusion that the voices were not her enemies but a source of “insight into solvable emotional problems” and a “sane reaction to insane circumstances.” Her hope now is to bring this compassionate perspective to the the psychiatric world at large and encourage a paradigm shift from asking patients “What’s wrong with you?” to asking “What’s happened to you?” The Frisky (USA), 12th August 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.47.28Living with Voices inside Your Head Myths can be more harmful than lies, Nobel laureate Harry Kroto has said, because they are more difficult to recognize and often go unexamined. For many years, a diagnosis of schizophrenia was like a prison sentence, because many people (some of them in the medical profession) held to the notion that a schizophrenic could not recover from the illness and was condemned to an inexorable decline into madness.Like any myth, this one had some truth to it. Many people with severe symptoms do not recover. But some can, as Eleanor Longden discovered for herself. Longden’s story of personal triumph is a reminder to examine prevailing attitudes about schizophrenia. Contrary to some popular misconceptions, people who receive the diagnosis are not all alike, they don’t have multiple personalities, their illness most likely does not stem from family attitudes and behaviors, and at least some of them can recover. Her story reminds us that labels can hide as much as they reveal. Scientific American, 8th August, 2013

Everything you ever wanted to know about voice hearing (but were too afraid to ask) During her freshman year of college, Eleanor Longden began hearing voices: a narrator describing her actions as she went about her day. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Longden began what she describes as a “psychic civil war,” fighting to stop the voices as they became antagonistic. Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head Eleanor Longden: The voices in my head What helped her was something unexpected: making peace with them. By learning to see the voices as a source of insight rather than a symptom, Longden took control. What’s it like to hear voices? Read Eleanor’s FAQ below — where she tells you everything you wanted to know about voice hearing, with her signature honesty and humor. TED Talks (USA), 8th August 2013


July

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 10.56.30 Betrayal and Hearing Voices It was 25 years ago. I was a relatively new intern at a busy inner city community health clinic and working at the Oregon State Hospital. I had already had my eyes and heart opened by the many stories of tragedy that surrounded such a place — poverty, racism, sexual assault, child abuse — and above all, the incredible power of the human spirit. I was already learning the limited power of the standard mental health system in addressing such injustices and trauma, and often did not feel up to the task.

Nancy was diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression. She was incredibly suicidal, heard voices and was on a cocktail of psychiatric drugs. She had been arrested for assault and spent time in the state prison. The prison had quickly seen that she did not belong there and transferred her to the state hospital. I was able to see her first in the hospital and then at the clinic when she was released. She was a mess. I didn’t know how long I would be working with her before she committed suicide. She had extremely lethal plans for it and was alone and isolated.

Nancy’s sad and violent history was recorded in the large file that came with her. She had a history of being sexually and physically violated by her father, who was, thankfully, on the road much of the time as a truck driver. Nancy’s mother was extremely depressed and unable or unwilling to adequately mother and protect her child. There were hospital records of her many visits to the emergency room starting from age 4. It was and will always be a mystery to me how and why Nancy was left in these circumstances with no intervention from the state.

Nancy trusted no one. She had not ever had a good experience with relationships and was extremely wary of me. It was difficult to get her to talk to me in our early sessions. Slowly, she told me a little of her story, primarily how she had been put in prison for assaulting people on city buses because her voices told her to. Her voices had ruled her life since mid-adolescence, telling her how worthless she was and about the dangers surrounding her. She was cut off from feeling for the most part, so her fear of others manifested as paranoia: Her voices told her others wanted to hurt her and that she had to lash out first or be attacked.

It was at one of these early sessions that Nancy turned her head slightly and seemed to tune me out. ”Are you hearing voices?” I asked. She looked at me as if in a trance, not sure who I was, but managed to answer, “Yes.”

“What are they telling you?” I asked, not sure of what to say in this situation — my first demonstration that there are many, many situations that occur in therapy with traumatized people that no one ever prepares you for. After a short pause, Nancy answered, “They are telling me to hurt you.” I was taken aback. The clinic had emergency procedures to use if we felt threatened by a client, but I was reluctant to use them for some reason. I looked at her gently and fearfully and asked, “Are you going to listen to them?”

Nancy stared at me in a way that told me that she had never been asked that question. She was silent and thoughtful for a while. Then she said to me, “I guess not.” It was the first time ever that she had the idea that she didn’t need to do everything her voices told her to do. It was also an opening to begin to believe that she didn’t have to always believe them when they told her how worthless she was.

That moment opened things up for us. Nancy was able to have a little more freedom in what she could think and say. She began to have some feelings of grief and loss for all that had happened in her life, and began to understand the depths of the betrayals that had happened to her. She was still reluctant to trust me and the voices reminded her from time to time to push me away, physically and emotionally. Somehow we hung in there. Since we had known from the beginning of our relationship that it would only last the year (the time of my internship), we had to set limited goals. Nancy decided that what she really wanted from our relationship was a hug at our last session. She had never touched or been touched by anyone in a way that was nurturing rather than destructive and she was frightened by the very idea. I agreed that one final hug would be a worthy goal.

We worked at it for months, through the fear and voices and self-destructive thoughts. We talked about what it might be like for her, what it might bring up, how it could affect her. She was willing to take the risk and so was I. When the time of our last meeting came, we were both nervous. We had worked through the ending process and how it was difficult for both of us, as we had become attached to each other. We talked about her assignment to a new therapist and Nancy had met that person and felt it was someone she could work with. We couldn’t put that last moment off any longer. As she walked toward the door she took a deep breath and reached for me. We hugged briefly, both with tears in our eyes and she walked out of my life forever.

Twenty-five years later I remember Nancy with fondness and sadness. She had experienced great betrayals, yet possessed great courage in her search for loving human contact. PsychCentral.com (USA) 24th July 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 00.33.13Beyond madness: a modern approach to hearing voices Four years ago, a woman came to speak to my third year psychology class at the University of Auckland. Her story completely changed the way I thought about voice-hearing. Like most people, I associated “hearing things” with being very unwell psychologically; with madness. Yet here was an articulate, hilarious and confident woman – a mental health educator – who was very much in touch with reality.

The first voice she heard was a supportive, maternal voice which didn’t cause her any distress. Later, she heard a group of demonic-like voices who threatened to harm her or those she cared about. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalised for many years.

Her turning point came when she asked her voices to show her some of their power by doing the dishes. When they didn’t, their hold over her started to loosen. Slowly, she learnt how to deal with her voices, built relationships with others and finally gained employment helping other voice-hearers. Hers is one of the stories of recovery recorded in Living with voices: 50 stories of recovery. The Conversation, 10th July 2013


June

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 00.24.37Yes, Highly Creative People Hear Voices—& It’s Normal. ~ Mary-Lou Stephens When I was a kid I heard voices. The low murmuring ones frightened me. They were dark and powerful. I could never understand what they were saying but they scared me.

The other voices were light, like a breeze rippling through my mind. I liked them. Sometimes the light and dark voices had conversations but it was in a language I didn’t understand. I remember sitting on the toilet listening to them—they liked small spaces. That’s when they talked the most. I liked small spaces too. Especially ones where you could lock the door.

I don’t remember when they left. Perhaps I was possessed by spirits and they were blasted out by the power of the Holy Spirit at the charismatic Christian rallies I went to with my parents when I was a teenager. Slain in the spirit, talking in tongues, the voices in my head couldn’t compete. They packed up shop and went off to find some other vulnerable, lonely kid.

The voices were long gone by the time I got to therapy, so I never mentioned them. But when I was living in Sydney and heavily involved with 12 Step programs for my various addictions, I became a Lifeline telephone counsellor. At one of the training sessions the subject of hearing voices came up. Afterwards, I had a private word to the lecturer about the voices I’d heard when I was a child.

“Are you a creative person?” he asked. “Yes. I write songs and play in bands.” “Well, that explains it.” “How?” “Clearly you’re not schizophrenic or delusional,” he said.

“One theory that I particularly like, and I think pertains to you, is that highly creative people, as well as those we’d think of as geniuses, hear voices. These voices can be the source of creativity or a precursor of creativity. I’d see them as a gift.”

He was a gift. The perfect person to ask the question I’d never been game to ask before. I was afraid that I would be thought mad. Instead, he considered me to be a creative genius.

I do still hear voices from time to time but now when they speak I understand them perfectly. A few years ago, I had a voice that would ask me a question. It was always the same question and always asked in a loving way.

“Are you happy?” the voice would ask. My answer was always “Yes.” elephant journal (Australia) 26th June, 2013


May

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 17.31.33Avatars help schizophrenia patients talk back to voices Professor Julian Leff from University College London who worked with patients with schizophrenia for 37 years, had come up with a new method for helping patients with voices. He planned to ask patients to build avatars of their tormentors, selecting voices and faces using customised software. The idea was that if we give the invisible entity a human face then it can be much easier for the patient to converse with it,” Professor Leff told the BBC. “The point is that because you created it you know it can’t harm you. And therefore, you can say things to it that you wouldn’t dare to say back to the voice.”

Claire’s story of ineffective medication and therapy is not uncommon; one in four patients with schizophrenia find that their symptoms do not respond to medication. And the auditory hallucinations can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of schizophrenia. The voices can be bullying and unkind, telling patients to hurt themselves or, less commonly, to hurt other people.

Currently, cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) is the recommended treatment in the UK for patients with schizophrenia. For patients who hear voices, a short course of CBT includes showing them a variety of coping skills such as relaxation and methods for distracting themselves when the voice is present.

But Dr Rufus May, a clinical psychologist who specialises in hearing voices, says that ignoring the voices is missing the point. He advocates entering into a dialogue with voices as well as patients. “The voices are kind of ambassadors for emotional conflicts in people’s lives,” he said.The voices are kind of ambassadors for emotional conflicts in people’s lives “Mounting evidence suggests that childhood traumas, bullying and neglect are often the root cause of voice hearing. Dr May emphasises the need to address those causes and understand why someone might be hearing voices. BBC News (UK), 31st May, 2013

Hearing Voices Network Launches Debate on DSM-5 and Psychiatric Diagnoses The Hearing Voices Network in England has issued a position statement on DSM 5 and the wide issue of psychiatric diagnoses following last week’s debate on the need for a new paradigm in mental health services, reported largely as a ‘turf war’ between psychiatry and psychology. Concerned that this debate can all too easily sound ‘academic’ and miss the voices of the very people these systems impact upon – those diagnosed with mental health problems – HVN are taking the debate back to the people. “We believe that people with lived experience of diagnosis must be at the heart of any discussions about alternatives to the current system.” Mad in America (USA), 30th May 2013

Why Hearing Voices Is No Problem for Some According to international research, approximately five percent of the population hears voices, even though they are otherwise healthy. According to international research, approximately five percent of the population hears voices, even though they are otherwise healthy. So what is the difference — in terms of brain activity — between those who are healthy and hear voices and those who suffer from mental illness? How can understanding the differences help those suffering from schizophrenia? These are some of the questions behind current research being conducted at the University of Bergen in Norway. For a five-year period, researchers from the Bergen fMRI Group have been studying the brain processes that cause people to hear voices. A recent report published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows some of the group’s startling results. “We have found that the primary auditory cortex of healthy people who hear voices responds less to outside stimulus than the corresponding area of the brain in people who don’t hear voices,” said lead author Kristiina Kompus, Ph.D., from the Department of Biological and Medical Psychology. The primary auditory cortex is the region of the brain that processes sound. The findings show that healthy people who hear voices share some attributes with schizophrenia patients, as the cortical region in both groups reacts less to outside stimulus. However, there is an important difference between the two groups: those with schizophrenia have a reduced ability to regulate the primary auditory cortex using cognitive control, while those who hear voices but are healthy are able to do so. PsychCentral.com (USA) 25th May 2013

How healthy people who hear voices are helping the mentally ill and researchers About five percent of the healthy population without mental illness can hear voices in their head, but they can control what they do with the voices or choose to research, jot down, or ignore the message told them. According to the researchers, approximately five per cent of us hear voices in the head, even if otherwise healthy. Does this phenomenon explain religious figures from the distant past or the present who report they hear voices from the heavens giving them information to write down and impart to others?

Researchers from the Bergen fMRI Group at the The University of Bergen (UiB) are working on how to help schizophrenics, who hear voices. The way they do this is by studying people who also hear voices, but who do not suffer from a mental illness. For a five-year period, the group is studying the brain processes causing people to hear voices. A recent report published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows some of the group’s startling results.

“We have found that the primary auditory cortex of healthy people who hear voices, responds less to outside stimulus than the corresponding area of the brain in people who don’t hear voices,” says Post Doctor Kristiina Kompus, in the May 24, 2013 news release, (translation by Sverre Ole Drønen). “Help at hand for schizophrenics.” The Examiner (USA), 25th May 2013

Is it unhelpful to see mental health issues as illnesses with biological causes? The British Psychological Society is calling for a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way issues of mental health are understood. Is the biomedical model of mental illness unhelpful? The Guardian (UK), 12th May 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 10.57.58 Call Us Crazy Mad movements organize against ableism, mentalism and more. Key principles of support work include “sharing stories, sharing experiences, sharing things that work for us, and sharing practical ways that people can use to get on with their lives ” said Kevin Healey. Healey is part of the International Hearing Voices Movement and has run a support group in Toronto for the past two years. Getting to the point of speaking up and speaking out was a long journey for him.

“It took me 40-something years before I could feel confident enough to stand up and say ‘I hear voices’ in a room full of people,” he said. “People don’t talk about it, so you don’t hear people talking about it, so you think you can’t talk about it. We’ve created this vicious cycle and that just creates more shame and more fear, because anybody who hears voices knows exactly what kind of response they’re going to get when they tell somebody.”

Different studies report different rates, but by Healey’s estimate, approximately one in 10 people hear voices at least on occasion. The majority of these people have no contact with the psychiatric system, he adds, and those who do hear disturbing or disruptive voices often have a history of trauma. He notes that medications turn off the voices for a small percentage of people, and might help others feel less overwhelmed, but even then there can be significant negative side effects. Healey would like to see psychiatric services change; he and the movement he is part of organize to form working relationships between “experts by experience” and “experts by training” to promote and practise a pluralistic, patient-directed approach.

“Really what our approach is about is…what you do when you’re with somebody. Simply, we aim to create safe spaces so that people can come to you and talk about their experiences whether it’s voices or visions or whatever it is,” he said. “We’re all running around trying to find ways to fix people—maybe what we really need to do is sit and listen, more than anything. That’s the basis of our approach, and it’s the basis of so much peer work: just listen.” He adds that knowing recovery actually happens, and “believing that people will find their way through, that it’s not something they’re stuck in forever,” really helps. Healey takes opportunities to appear in various media to help more people see that there are other ways of looking at things and finding ways to support people without having “the” answer to it all. “Part of what we’re trying to do is just to show people that this is a normal human experience a lot of us do get, and a lot of us learn how to deal with it,” he said. The Dominion (Canada), 7th May 2013

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 11.02.14 Is That God Talking? I don’t think that anthropologists can pronounce on whether God exists or not, but I am averse to the idea that God is the full explanation here. For one thing, many of these voices are mundane. A woman told me that she heard God tell her to get off the bus when she was immersed in a book and about to miss her stop. Moreover, odd auditory experiences are quite common. A questionnaire posed to 375 college students found that 71 percent reported vocal hallucinations of some kind, according to a study published in 1984 (a finding consistent with my own research). A 2000 study found that 38.7 percent of the population reported visual, auditory or other hallucinations, including out-of-body experiences.

Schizophrenia, or the radical break with reality we identify as serious mental illness, is also not an explanation. The people who reported these events simply weren’t ill in that way, and schizophrenia is not common (the prevalence among American adults is 1.1 percent in any year). Moreover, the patterns of their voice-hearing are quite unlike the patterns we associate with schizophrenia. The voices heard by people with schizophrenia are often harsh and commanding. They go on and on — sentences, paragraphs, sometimes crowds of people screaming and yelling insults at the poor voice-hearing person throughout the day. Op Ed by T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford and the author of “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God,” is a guest columnist. New York Times (USA), 1st May 2013

‘Slower’ children suffer more psychosis Cardiff and Bristol research claims Children whose brains process information more slowly than their peers are at greater risk of having psychotic experiences, research claims. A study found those slower in tests were more likely to have psychosis, like hearing voices and seeing things that are not present, at the age of 12. Children with psychotic experiences are more at risk of developing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia as adults. It is hoped the Cardiff and Bristol universities study will help treatment. Some 6,784 children who took part in the study were tested to see how quickly they could process information. Their attention, memory, reasoning, and ability to solve problems were also assessed. Among those interviewed, 787 (11.6%) had had suspected or definite psychotic experiences by the time they were 12 – with children who scored lower in the tests more likely to have had them. This was particularly the case for the test that assessed how quickly the children processed information. The study has been published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. BBC News (UK), 1st May 2013


April

This Is Your Brain on Opera “Visitations,” a double bill of one-act operas about auditory hallucinations, mixes digital sounds with live voices and a chamber ensemble. For the occasion, the acoustics of Bing Hall — Stanford’s new sensual concert hall, with terraced in-the round seating, white inwardly curved panels that evoke billowing sails, and undulating wood paneling — had been configured to represent neuroscientific imaging of a hallucinating brain, with the stage roughly occupying the place of the prefrontal cortex. Source: New York Times (USA), 15th April 2013

Living Mindfully with Voices Rufus May “I have found mindfulness approaches have been supportive in helping people begin to accept voices in their lives and adopt an integrative approach towards them. Society is afraid of hearing voices so has an aggressive approach towards them. There is a history in Buddhist and mindfulness approaches of setting boundaries but at the same time being willing to listen mindfully and respond wisely to apparently intrusive experiences such as voices. ” Mad in America (USA), 9th April 2013


March

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 11.03.41 Hearing voices need not mean you’re crazy, says activist A Toronto man has learned to live with the voices in his head and argues they have been a positive part of his life. Kevin Healey hears voices in his head, talks to them, feels very well and doesn’t want medication, thank you very much. “I’m good. I’m not on medication and I don’t need to see anyone in mental health,” says Healey, 50, an articulate man who likes to laugh and is at peace with the dozen voices he carries in his head — all of whom, he says, have distinct personalities.He has no desire to be rid of them. A former government worker in management services, where his “voices” often were a huge help — “I can come up with as many ideas as a whole room full of people” — Healey now offers consultation services in the mental health field, writes a blog, and facilitates a monthly peer support group for other people who hear voices. The Star (Canada) 31st March 2013

Day 6 of Australia 2013: Hearing Voices Today we are in Melbourne where we are presenting a workshop for Hearing Voices Victoria (http://www.voicesvic.org) on indigenous approaches to hearing voices. We were wisely moved to an air conditioned conference room in Prarahm Mission since our previous conference room had none and the temperature in Melbourne had surpassed all previous records for the 9th day in a row. Global warming had come to southeastern Australia where the day’s temperature was 40 degrees Celsius. Hearing Voices Victoria is a marvelous organization that promotes the idea that hearing voices is a common experience that occurs with at least 40% of the world’s people and that people who are having trouble with mean or deprecating voices can learn to manage those voices. Organizations like this are springing up all over the world including the Irish Advocacy Network, the Hearing Voices Network in Great Britain, and InterVoices in Europe. Voices Victoria is sponsoring the world hearing voices conference this November, 2013. Futurehealth.org (USA) 12th March 2013


February

Living with voices in your head: Eleanor Longden at TED2013 Longden lives with her voices with peace, respect, compassion and acceptance. She is a part of Intervoice, the organizational body for the hearing voices movement. The group has networks in 26 countries on five continents, and it promotes a sense of dignity, solidarity and empowerment for individuals in mental distress. “We don’t have to live our lives forever defined by the damaging things that have happened to us,” she concludes. “My psychiatrist said: ‘Don’t tell me what other people have told you about yourself. Tell me about you.’” TED (USA), 28th February 2013

Steve-O Became A Vegan After He ‘Started Hearing Voices’ Jackass star Steve-O became a vegan to improve his karma after eating living things for so long. The prankster and stuntman gave up drugs and meat after a stint in rehab and he admits the decision to become a vegan was more spiritual than health-related. The star tells RollingStone.com, “I was doing so many drugs that I literally started hearing voices. I considered the voices my spirit friends, and they were telling me to kill myself. Some of them were nasty characters, but other ones told me they were worried about me… One of them told me I was going to have to answer for s**t.

“One time I did something particularly nasty – I tried to really hurt someone’s feelings with a text message. I heard a voice in my right ear say, ‘You’re going to have to answer for that’. Later I came across a YouTube video where this Krishna consciousness guy in India was talking about how it’s difficult for Westerners to be saved because there’s such little respect for life on the planet.

“This guy said, ‘How can you expect to be saved if you eat meat?’ I put that together with the voices I was hearing and I became afraid of having some kind of spiritual punishment.” Star Pulse (USA), 4th February 2013


January

The Hearing Voices Movement: In Response to a Father – ‘My Daughter, the Schizophrenic’ There was a heart-breaking and disturbing story in this weekend’s Guardian newspaper entitled ‘My Daughter, the Schizophrenic’, (1) which featured edited extracts from a book written by the father of a child called Jani. He describes how Jani is admitted into a psychiatric hospital when she is 5, diagnosed with schizophrenia when she is 6 and by the time she is 7, she has been put on a potent cocktail of psychotropic medications. Madness in America (USA), 21st January 2013

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