Listen To A Voice Of Reason: An Interview with Hywel Davies
23rd August 2017
A MILFORD Haven man is devoting his life to supporting individuals who experience auditory hullucinations – voices in their head.
Hywel Davies first began to hear voices when he was 11 years old.
Now, some 52 years later, he spends his time and energy spearheading a pioneering network of groups seeking to broaden understanding and acceptance of the condition across the globe.
“I first began hearing voices in 1965,” said Hywel now 63. ‘
“To begin with it was positive.
“The voices actually helped me through school, but when I turned 17 it became a bit frightening.”
Hywel spent the next 25 years coming to terms with the voices, unaware that there were other people dealing with the same issues.
Then his life changed.
“I subscribed to a magazine called Open Mind,” he said. In 1995 there was an article discussing voices I recognised myself in it. “I was a voice-hearer.”
The key is to help people understand that they can come to terms with their voices and live with them I recognised myself in it. Voices network.
The article discussed an upcoming conference on the subject in Maastricht in the Netherlands. The conference was led by Professor Marius Romme and Dr Sandra Escher, founders of the Hearing voices movement.
“My mother encouraged me to attend she said it would be like going to Sunday School.”
She said it in a positive fashion.
What he learned there was to take him on a journey which saw him learning to better manage his own situation and take a leading role spreading the message of support and understanding others as part of the Hearing Voices network.
Key to this has been the changing of attitudes towards those hearing voices socially and professionally.
“Traditionally; if you told a psychiatrist you heard voices you would be sent to a mental health institution said Hywel.
“The problem with many mental health services are the still based in the early 20th century thinking.
“The traditional western medical view has been that the voices were caused by a chemical imbalance, which could be treated with medication.”
The use of anti-psychosis medication can prove detrimental to health.
“Medication can help – but it is not a cure,” said Hywel.
“It can in fact be detrimental.
The voices are real, not something that can be cured.
“Long term anti-psychosis medication use can reduce life as much as 20 years, but people are still being treated with inappropriate medication”.
The Hearing Voices movement encourages people to take control of their situation without necessarily resorting to medication.
“The tide is turning,” said Hywel.
“People are beginning to understand that this is not a psychological illness.
The Hearing voices network is not about anti-psychiatry, it is about complementary services.
“We support people who are desperate for help and parents who are desperate for help for their children.
“Children are often dismissed as having over-active imagination or are diagnosed with psychosis.
“It’s terrifying for them. Their parents are often at the end of their tether.
“The voices are often distressing and sometimes horrible. People think they are going mad.
“The key is to help people understand that they can come to terms with their voices and live with them.”
Key to the networks is recognising that the voices cannot be “cured”. They form part of the individual.
“It is about working with someone’s reality,” said Hywel
“Sometimes it is hard work, but it is about accepting the experience.
“It is important to build a relationship with the voices and have a dialogue with them.
“It is not about mastering the voices, but negotiating with them
“We work to enable people to control their voices and have a dialogue with them.
Hywel’s involvement with hearing voices has seen him travel the globe, speaking to a worldwide audience and helping to establish networks in numerous countries.
He has personally played a significant role in developing 34 international networks and chairs Hearing Voices Network Cymru.
Hearing Voices Network Cymru currently distributes books and information, and has sent out more than 500 information packs to recipients in more than 50 countries all across the globe, including the USA and Australia.
This article has been amended from the original to correct factual errors.