Embracing the dark voices within British psychologist, Rufus May is taking an unusual approach to schizophrenia by encouraging his patients not to battle against their voices – but to embrace them. BBC News (UK), 3rd December, 2009
Schizophrenia is overcome by Saltaire woman A young Bradford woman who used her experience of paranoid schizophrenia to help others and achieved a first-class degree last night won a Yorkshire Young Achievers award. Eleanor Longden, 27, of Saltaire, was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18. She was bullied by other students and began to harm herself. She overcame her problems and graduated with the highest first-class degree in psychology to be awarded by the University of Leeds. For the past four years she has worked for Bradford’s Early Intervention in Psychosis team and in 2006 she helped to establish the Bradford Self-Injury Service which provides treatment, support and advice to people who self-harm. Miss Longden, who grew up in Bradford and attended Salt Grammar School, has contributed to several mental health textbooks and spoken at national and international conferences. She is now studying for an MSc and plans to start a PhD next year. She was named joint winner of the Achievement in Education Award for overcoming her problems to achieve academic success and making a huge contribution to the understanding of mental illness. Telegraph and Argos (UK) 13th November 2009
Oprah: The 7 Year Old With Schizophrenia On October 6, 2009, the popular television show Oprah aired a program about a 7 year old girl, Jani, who has “schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia is fairly rare within the population to begin with; it’s nearly unheard of in children as young as 7. That’s what made this an interesting and engaging program. The disorder apparently started at 2, with imaginary friends who started showing up in Jani’s life.
I can’t speak to Jani’s specific case, since I’ve never met the child, but I will say that labeling a child at this young an age with such a serious mental disorder (she was first diagnosed at age 5) is extraordinary. And of course it is easy to second-guess Jani’s experience and that of her parents from afar.
Her psychiatrist, Dr. Mark DeAntonio [from the UCLA Medical Center], says it’s very unusual for a child Jani’s age to have this kind of mental illness. “I’ve seen only really a handful of children in my 20 years that fit this kind of diagnosis,” he says. “This kind of alternate reality that she lives in—that’s very scary. That’s very disturbing.”
Disturbing indeed. Even more disturbing that Oprah would choose to highlight this kind of case with an entire show devoted to it — kind of smells opportunistic. But it wouldn’t be the first time Oprah took the sensationalistic route in portraying a mental disorder for ratings, rather than helping people truly understand people’s living with them.
I wouldn’t have written about it except that a few days ago an organization called Intervoice sent me a news release that contained an “open letter to Oprah Winfrey” regarding the episode and Jani. PsychCentral, 27th October 2009
A first-class recovery: From hopeless case to graduate Eleanor Longden was a diagnosed schizophrenic and heard menacing voices in her head for 10 years. Now, she has fought back and has graduated with a brilliant honours degree in psychology. Ms Longden has been hearing the same critical, often menacing, internal voices for about 10 years. Every day, the dominant male speaks to her in an authoritative tone. The others back him up and the messages are always the same: you’re not good enough; why bother with anything when you’re such a failure? Except that she is not. She recently graduated from Leeds University with a first-class honours degree in psychology, the highest ever awarded by the department. She now works part-time with people who are hearing voices and is preparing for her PhD next year. But it has been a long, hard struggle to where she is now. The psychiatrists and mental health nurses Ms Longden first encountered agreed with her voices. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, forced to take high doses of powerful medication and written off as a hopeless case. The Independent, 25th October 2009
Hearing Visions and Seeing Voices. Psychological Aspects of Biblical Concepts and Personalities (REVIEW) (Edited by G. Glas, M. H. Spero, P. J. Verhagen & H. M. van Praag Springer. 2007. £99 (hb). 326 pp. ISBN: 9781402059384) Hearing Visions and Seeing Voices arose from a conference that sought to explore the bond between religion and psychology, which the authors suggest lies in their shared history of the cura animarum, or the care and cure of the human soul. The book contains a series of erudite reviews on the psychological and theological literature of some iconic Jewish and Christian biblical characters. British Journal of Psychiatry (UK) 30th September 2009
Hearing Voices – Underpinnings of Auditory Hallucinations The past few years have also seen the development of a radical counter-movement that seeks to normalize the act of hearing voices. The movement is said to have originated in the Netherlands and the U.K. Intervoice, which bills itself as “the international community for hearing voices,” says they have found that many people who hear voices “are not troubled by them or have found their own ways of coping with them outside of psychiatric care.” Those voice hearers who are “overwhelmed by the negative and disempowering aspects of the experience” are often diagnosed as schizophrenics — “a harmful and stigmatizing concept,” in the opinion of Intervoice. Brain Blogger (USA) 22nd September, 2009
A global challenge One of the biggest taboos surrounding mental illness is “hearing voices”. Pascale Harter has been speaking to Pete Bullimore who has wrestled with mental illness for many years. Auditory hallucinations are considered by clinical psychiatry to be a symptom of schizophrenia or psychosis and sufferers are usually treated with tranquillisers to try to make the voices go away. But in the last few years a new school of thought has developed which considers voice hearing to be a variation in the human experience, something that cannot be cured. Instead, practitioners try to help people live in harmony with their voices. The BBC’s Chloe Hadjimatheou went to meet psychologist, Rufus May, who is pioneering new techniques in this field by actually talking back to the voices. BBC News (UK), 2nd September 2009
‘There were 20 voices all shouting at once’ Peter Bullimore went from running a successful business with million pound turnovers to spending 10 years in and out of psychiatric institutions. He hears voices in his head – and they were causing severe paranoia and suicidal tendencies. His recovery came via the ‘Hearing Voices Network’ – a self-help group where people who hear voices can talk about them openly. He is no longer on medication and has learnt how to deal with his voices in his head. BBC (UK), 3rd September 2009
Hearing voices? You’re not alone Mental health researchers estimate that about 4 per cent of people experience auditory hallucinations, where they hear voices. In Australia, the problem has typically been treated with medication. But a network of self-help groups that has been successful overseas is now gradually being rolled out around the country. Janet Karagounis started hearing the voices of her imaginary friends when she was 8, but by her late 20s the voices were more sinister and she ended up in a psychiatric unit.”Basically I had aliens, I had government conspiracies, every couple of years I basically was put in a psychiatric unit and I was first diagnosed chronic schizophrenic,” she said.”That wrote me off so to speak. I had no hope, no future, no chance of working. And yeah, now my life is glowing.”Ms Karagounis credits a Hearing Voices group for turning her life around and she’s now a group facilitator.”When I discovered that actual past events in your life and trauma are associated with hearing voices, once I made that connection, everything started to become clearer,” she said. ABC (Australia), 27th August 2009
Hearing voices Hearing voices doesn’t necessarily mean that you have schizophrenia. That’s one of the myths that Marlene Janssen, coordinator of the Hearing Voices Network Australia, dispels. Trauma, upheaval, even joyous occasions such pregnancy can cause someone to hear things that other don’t.Marlene talks to Glynn Greensmith on the South West Morning Program. ABC South West WA, 1st July 2009
Stalking Irish Madness: An Interview with Patrick Tracey The correction has been firmly planted in Europe, the first glimmer of hope coming twelve years ago with the beginning of the Hearing Voices Network in Maastricht. Their meetings have since flourished in Europe. For some reason this more opened-minded attitude has taken much longer to reach and root itself in the United States. It will though–it’s absolutely inevitable like all irrepressibly good ideas. PsychCentral, 30 June 2009
Mad Medicine: A New Group for People Who Hear Voices Celebrates Mental Diversity Most people, even many of those working within the mental health system, are only dimly aware of the issues being raised by groups like Portland Hearing Voices (PHV). Nonetheless, the questioning of traditional approaches to experiences that are usually associated with schizophrenia has become quite common, particularly in the UK. (PHV’s kickoff event featured a screening of the hour-long BBC documentary Hearing Voices, produced as early as 1995.) While the Portland group is among the first of its kind in the United States, intervoiceonline.org, an international network and online community for voice hearers, estimates that there are over 170 Hearing Voices groups in England alone.The Portland Mercury (USA), 25th June 2009
“Psychiatric diagnoses are less reliable than star signs” The psychologist Richard Bentall says that psychiatrists dish out drugs but ignore the value of good relationships. Times Online (UK), 22nd June 2009
Calls to end stigma of schizophrenia ‘label’ Traditionally, advocates of the schizophrenia diagnosis argue that the illness is a deteriorating condition arising from increased activity in the brain of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Yet the success of behavioural therapies and counselling at the Scottish Hearing Voices Network in Dundee suggests that it may be traumatic experiences and other social factors that lead to the development of psychoses. The Sunday Herald (UK), 20th June 2009
The voices that help improve care Janey Antoniou has schizophrenia. She regularly hears voices and has paranoid delusions. But when the emergency services try to help her, or others like her, they can end up making things much worse. In a bid to try and prevent misunderstandings, Janey, with the use of a tape filled with competing voices, has been coaching ambulance service staff on the world of schizophrenia. Hearing her talk about her illness, Phil Alexander, of the East of England Ambulance Trust, said he wanted her to explain to his staff the problems those with mental health problems can suffer.
“She brings a Walkman with about seven voices on it talking at different volumes.
“One person wears the headphones, while another asks questions and a third observes.
“It gives the observer the opportunity to see what it is like for the person hearing the voices to try and have a conversation.
“We then get Janey to talk about mental health problems.
A patient with mental health problems
The tapes help people experience what it is like to hear voices
“We say if you have a broken leg and in pain you can see it, but unless someone tells you that a patient has mental health problems you have no way of knowing without trying to interpret what is happening.
“It gives them a little more empathy with patients.”
He estimated that up to 9% of call-outs involved someone with a mental health problem. Janey, who has been schizophrenic for 23 years, says efforts like this do improve empathy.
“I talk about mental health problems to them and give them some personal advice such as moving away from the radio when they talk to me, because to me that is just another voice.
“I tell them that they can’t turn down the cassette because I can’t turn down my voices.”
Ambulance man Chris Perry said his time with Janey had helped.
“It was brilliant, very good, and it gave us an understanding of what people go through when suffering from these disorders that has stayed with me ever since,” he said.
“I am quite confident now asking what would have been tricky questions such as, ‘Are you hearing voices?'”
He added: “There was a case where a patient’s medication did not seem to be working as well as it should and he was hearing voices telling him to do things.
“It was quite a nasty area of the town and we were on edge but I approached him and, once we were sure we were safe, I thought back to the session and talked to him. He was quite open and talked about the problem.
“Before I would have tried to avoid all contact with the patient, which would have only alienated him more.” BBC NEWS (UK), 18th April 2009
Psychiatry and Oppression: A Personal Account of Compulsory Admission and Medical Treatment Dr Ben Gray concludes that there needs to be more attention paid to voice hearers’ stories and accounts of mental illness, which he links to the rise of democratic psychiatry and the growth of the hearing voices movement, headed by organizations such as Intervoice, Asylum, MindFreedom, and the Hearing Voices Network. Schizophrenia Bulletin, April 2009
Calls to end stigma of schizophrenia ‘label’ Ron Coleman, diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1982 and treated with electro-shock therapy and drugs, has cited his own nightmare experience in the psychiatric system to call for the term to be dropped altogether. Sunday Herald (UK), 11th April 2009
Unravelling madness Bentall prefers to focus on symptoms, usually by getting the patient to list and identify their problems. “A patient may say: ‘I do hear voices, but actually it’s never really bothered me, but I’ve got this terrible relationship with my husband’ or whatever.” NZ Herald News, (UK), 4th April 2009
I talk back to the voices in my head I heard a speaker talk about an approach advocated by growing numbers of mental health professionals that involves people engaging with the voices inside their head. He was from the Hearing Voices Network and I agreed to visit him. He said I should be frank and uncompromising with the voices. If they told me to self-harm, I should just say no. The Guardian (UK), 4th April 2009
New dialogues on voices Cognitive behavioural therapy has long been accepted as a valid therapeutic intervention for people who hear voices. So what does he future hold for more radical approaches, such as voice dialogue, asks Adam James. Psychminded/Mental Health Today (UK), February 2009
People who drink too much coffee could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices UK research has suggested, Experiencing hallucinations is not a definite sign of mental illness and that about 3% of people regularly hear voices researchers say. “This is the first step toward looking at the wider factors associated with hallucinations,” said Simon Jones, who led the study. BBC News (UK), January 2009
Coffee linked to hallucinations People who consume coffee and other caffeinated products are more likely to have hallucinations Independent (UK), 14th January 2009