Presentations from the Sixth Hearing Voices Congress, 10th – 12th October 2014, Thessalonika, Greece

Odysseying with the Sirens: Struggling Towards Recovery in Times of Crisis

10th – 12th October 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece


The title refers to The Odyssey, Homer’s famous epic about Ulussys and how the sirens lured him from his path.

The Congress was organised by INTERVOICE, the Hellenic Hearing Voices Network and the Hellenic Observatory for Rights in the Field of Mental Health.

300 people from all over the world including people who hear voices, family members, friends, professionals and researchers gathered to share life experiences, perspectives and ideas.

You can see videos of the speeches and presentations here:

6th World Hearing Voices Congress 2014 Slideshow

A photographic slide show of the presenters and participants at the 6th World Hearing Voices Congress 2104, Thessaloniki, Greece.

6th World Hearing Voices Congress 2014 Slideshow

Presenters and participants at the 6th World Hearing Voices Congress 2104, Thessaloniki, Greece.

Friday 10th October 2014

Dirk Corstens opens the Congress with Theodoros Megaloeconompu

Dirk Corstens, psychiatrist and chair of INTERVOICE opens the 6th World Hearing Voices Congress on behalf of the INTERVOICE board and Dr. Theodoros Megaloeconompu explains the context of the Congress for people in Greece (in Greek language) and the dangers and challenges of the intended reforms of mental health services that will be carried out in 2015.

Kellie Comans: From Melbourne to Thessaloniki – Welcome to the Conference from Australia

Kellie Comans, voice hearer and INTERVOICE board member welcomes participants of the 6th World Hearing Voices Congress on behalf of the organisers of the 5th World Hearing Voices Congress held in Melbourne, Australia in 2013.

Dirk Corstens welcomes voices to the World Hearing Voices Congress. Virginia Ioannidou, Marianna Kefallinou and Marina Lykovounioti from the Hellenic Hearing Voices Network report on their work

Dirk Corstens welcomes the voices to the 6th World Hearing Voices Congress.

Virginia Ioannidou, Marianna Kefallinou and Marina Lykovounioti from the Hellenic Hearing Voices Network report on the developments and work in Greece.

A video tribute in thanks for the contributions of Peter Bullimore.

Marcello Macario: The Development of The Italian Hearing Voices Network

Marcello Macario, a psychiatrist reports on the development of the Italian Hearing Voices Network. Now consisting of 30 groups.

Lisa Forestell: The Development of The Hearing Voices Network USA

Lisa, a voice hearer, person of lived experience from Massachusetts reports on the development of the Hearing Voices Network USA that now has 60 fully affiliated Hearing Voices Group across the country.

Olga Runciman: Report of Developments of the Danish Hearing Voices Network

Olga Runciman, chair of the Danish Hearing Voices Network provides a report of their work over the last 12 months.

Peter Bullimore: Report from Hearing Voices Network England

Peter Bullimore co-chair of Hearing Voices Network England reports on developments in England.

Robin Timmers: Report on the situation in the Netherlands

Robin Timmers, voice hearer and member of the Hearing Voices Network Netherlands reports on work and developments in the Netherlands.

World Hearing Voices Movement – Where are we and where are we heading?

Marius Romme, President of INTERVOICE considers the progress made by the hearing voices movement so far and what we could do next to further our cause.

Eugenie Georgaca: Close of the first evening of the Congress

Eugenie Georgaca closed the first evening of the Congress at the Ceremony Hall, Faculty of Philosophy, Aristotle University of Thessalonika.

Saturday 11th October 2014

Theasaloniki Hearing Voices Declaration Discussion

Professor Marius Romme: How to solve the schizophrenia problem

Marius Romme, psychiatrist and co-founder of INTERVOICe considers how we can solve the schizophrenia problem.

The schizophrenia problem is a threefold problem.
1) Many studies have confirmed that the illness concept has zero scientific validity.
2) The meaningfulness of the separate “symptoms” is not taken seriously. Calling them psychotic symptoms seems to be an excuse not to explore the experiences.
3) The dopamine theory leads to prescribing continuous medication and not solving the person’s problems.

To solve these problems the focus should be shifted from the illness to the separate symptoms because they have a cause in the person’s life in what they have experienced, while the cause of the illness is not known.
In the diagnostic procedure the symptoms are misused to construct the diagnosis of illness, instead of analyzing their cause and help the person to solve their problems.
Medication should only be prescribed for short periods to make it possible for the person to learn to cope with their emotions.

Irene van de Giessen: The need for an odyssean construction with hearing voices and mental problems in general

Irene a voice hearer from ther Netherlands recounts the story of her own experience, why she thinks that psychiatry lacks an odyssean construction, when doctors are lured by their education, the DSM V, their employers, the person who hears voices, the voices, their family and friends, society or the pharmaceutical industry, into prescribing expensive medicines or applying forced treatment.
She then considers the importance of an odyssean construction in the life of everyone who faces mental problems.
She takes us along on a journey in which she withstood curious voices and beings, which enthralled her and brought her into a crisis time and again.
She asks her supporters to stop listening to the dominant opinions on hearing voices in psychiatry.
When her step-father decides to concern himself personally with her recovery, she herself decides to take the Maastricht approach to hearing voices seriously and apply it to her personal life. In this way she still hears the voices and sees the beings, but she no longer goes into crisis time and again.

Olga Runciman: Voice hearers as Odysseus

Olga Runciman is a voice hearer, psychiatric nurse, psychotherapist and chair of the Danish Hearing Voices Network.

Homer it is said tells of only two Sirens portrayed as beautiful yet deadly creatures luring all who listen to certain death. Their song it is said is hard to resist, their message irresistible.

“Come take these pills your madness cured…” says the modern day analogy of the two Sirens – the psychiatrist and the pharmaceutical industry.

Some say that these Sirens were fated to die if someone heard their singing and escaped them. Odysseus was one who heard them and passed on by and they flung themselves into the water perishing.

Today we voice hearers are escaping the Sirens of psychiatry, what consequences does that have as we choose our own journeys?

I will be basing this presentation on my thesis, which looked at what happens if one listens to the Sirens of psychiatry versus those who do not and what this bodes for psychiatry’s future.

Peter Bullimore: Development of the Greek Hearing Voices Network

Peter a voice hearer from England, co- chair of the Hearing Voices Network England describes the history of the development of the hearing voices network in Greece from 2009 to the present day.

Chris Madson: On and on it goes, where it stops nobody knows

Chris is a voice hearer and member of the Hearing Voices Network of Western Australia.

“At the age of 14, I heard my first voice. At the age of 23 years I became homeless and in 1999 I was admitted to Graylands Mental Health Hospital, where I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. After being discharged, I moved to a mental health hostel where I lived for approximately 7 years.

With support I moved into a men’s support house. Started attending a Hearing Voices Group and got a job sweeping floors.

Approximately twelve months later I moved out with a friend becoming independent and started receiving support from the Richmond Fellowship of Western Australia (RFWA). I completed two Peer Support Worker Courses and in late 2010 I started working for the Personal Helpers and Mentors Program as a part time Peer Support worker. I am now working fulltime across two programs of (RFWA). Including the Hearing Voices Network of Western Australia.

Recently I was asked to Co Facilitate a Hearing Voices Group in a Prison due to my lived experience of hearing voices. Also recently I have been nominated for a Good Outcomes Award for all of my hard work.

I’m now looking forward to attending the World Hearing Voices Congress in Thessaloniki with my work colleagues”.

Sunday 13th October 2014

Sandra Escher: Children and Young People: Part One

Sandra Escher: Children and Young People who Hear Voices Part 2

The differences between patients and non-patients children and youngsters hearing voices
Sandra Escher
Former journalist and senior staff member at the Community Mental Health Centre in Maastricht, honorary research fellow at Birmingham City University, Co-Founder of Intervoice

The attitude in mental health care towards patients hearing voices is strongly influenced by the idea that hearing voices is a symptom of an illness. Although population surveys show that 4 to 8% of the normal population hears voices and most voice hearers do not look for mental health care has this fact not influenced the attitude.
People reason that there must be a difference between the experience of patients and non-patients. However contemporary research shows there is no difference between the experience itself. It is the difference in coping with emotions relating to problems and trauma that counts. What consequences does this research has on the approach in mental health care?

Rachel Waddingham: Can you sit beside me whilst the sky falls in?

Rachel Waddingham, Mind in Camden, National Hearing Voices Network (England), Intervoice, ISPS UK

“Can you sit beside me whilst the sky falls in?” Learning from hearing voices groups in prisons

As a facilitator, I am acutely aware that Hearing Voices Groups offer members something that is in short supply – space to sit alongside one another in an atmosphere of respect, understanding and validation.
At their best, these groups can hold powerful emotions and experiences – giving members the chance to explore these without being crushed by their weight.
As a member, it was this part of the group that I most needed and valued. It was important for me to learn that people could hear and recognise the parts of my experience I usually kept out of sight.
Creating and maintaining this safe space, however, isn’t always easy.
Since launching Hearing Voices Groups in London’s prisons I have had a crash course in the need to ‘be with’ people in distress. The level of powerlessness and trauma has required me to confront my own reactions in order to help facilitate a safe enough space for members to support one another.
This talk explores the challenges around creating safe spaces in unsafe places and how this can help us better support those in distress. It explores what can help transform an overwhelming experience into something we can learn from rather than fear.

Rufus May: In a crisis: Finding ways to live with voices of panic, blame and punishment

Rufus May, Clinical psychologist in Bradford’s Assertive Outreach Team, Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Citizenship and Community Health, Bradford, UK, facilitator of hearing voices groups and of Evolving Minds.

Mainstream practitioners are beginning to be interested in dialoguing practices with voices. This includes the Avatar therapy approach currently being trialled in the the UK where voice hearers practice being assertive and dialoguing with computer generated images of their voices.
I will reflect on my experience of using voice dialogue and witnessing different ways people who hear voices have found to strengthen their sense of self and change the relationship with their voices. I will consider the value of trauma counselling, bodywork and different spiritual approaches to finding ways to live with voices. I will also look at the dangers of dialoguing with parts of our mind that are more disconnected or unconscious. Ways to make this process safe will be considered including the use of grounding practices, community support and ritual.

Robin Timmers: Hearing voices, recovery, emancipation: Lessons learned and future challenges

Robin Timmers: Founder of the Hearing Voices Support Centre, RIBW Nijmegen & Rivierenland. Mental Health Care Teacher at Hogeschool Arnhem Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Co-editor of the Klankspiegel, the magazine of the Dutch HVN Weerklank.

The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) approach gave birth to many new insights that proved to be invaluable for voice hearers, family & friends of voice hearers, mental health professionals, students, scientists and the general public.
By showing recovery & emancipation of hearing voices is possible and needed, the HVN gave many voice hearers their life back and saved many lives of voice hearers who otherwise might have committed suicide. An overview of the insights, goals and achievements of the HVN is given.
Next the influence of the HVN on mainstream mental health care, science and the general public is discussed. For instance the influence of the HVN on the recovery movement and CBT. Then new insights from outside the HVN are discussed. For instance what can we learn from brain imaging research en schema- and trauma therapies?
Finally possible future challenges are discussed. How can we make sure that voice hearing becomes depathologized and culturally accepted?
How can we make sure the rights of voice hearers are secured and that voice hearers have access to a wide variety of support so they can choose what kind of support fits them best?

Sam Warner: Visions, voices, dissociated parts and child sexual abuse

Visions, voices, dissociated parts and child sexual abuse: From living life in crisis to moving on to recovery, Dr Sam Warner

Consultant clinical psychologist and research fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

Child sexual abuse is a world-wide social problem which has many negative effects. The physical act of abuse may have ceased, but victims often feel traumatised many years later. This is because the mind-tricks that abusers play to control their victims still linger inside their heads. People can then still feel like they are living within the crisis of abuse which continues to control their lives. In this session I demonstrate how visions, voices and dissociated parts sometimes develop in response to the overwhelming trauma of child sexual abuse and that these strategies of survival enable people to survive the crisis of their abused childhoods. I then explore how splitting parts off in these ways, helps people mentally survive the trauma of abuse, but can also cause additional stress, which may undermine their recovery. This is particularly the case when services view visions, voices and dissociated parts as symptoms of mental disorder, rather than as meaningful and potentially helpful starting points for recovery. Drawing on my work with children and adults who hear voices, see visions and experience different identities, I demonstrate how victims of childhood sexual abuse can be supported to use their visions, voices and dissociated parts to understand crisis and to provide directions for recovery.

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