Voices in your head: How a support group helps members cope After a warm salutation and some deep-breathing exercises, members of the North Shore Hearing Voices Support Group in Vancouver settle in to talk about the voices in their heads. “It’s hard not to believe in demons when the demons keep talking to you,” says Rory Higgs, a young man with a pinkish streak in his hair. Justin Day hears the voice of a woman he used to know, a steady stream of derogatory comments. “Get out of my life, you’re a weirdo, you’re a loser,'” he shares unhappily. “I have to tell myself they’re paranoid delusions.” Others reveal how voices help them through the day. Sometimes birds talk to Jael Emberly. “I get good voices that challenge my own insecurities,” she says. Learning to live with the voices is what’s behind the Hearing Voices Network (HVN), a worldwide coalition of small support groups where voice-hearers learn strategies to cope with voices in their head, whatever form they take. CBC/Radio-Canada, 7th December 2016
A moment that changed me – when I stopped hearing the voices in my head They had been my companions for years – often urging me to do myself harm, but sometimes offering comfort. Then a new regime of drugs and therapy banished them. Following my most recent admission to hospital, I have been slowly mending myself, shell and all. I have been given a new dose of medication, a new diagnosis, and sessions with a clinical psychologist who has encouraged me to look at the “life coaches” inside my head as mere reflections of my internal emotional world, rather than as external forces to be reckoned with. One or a combination of these changes has stopped the voices for the first time in two years. The Guardian (UK), 13th November 2015
From hearing voices to helping others: One man’s story of coping with mental health problems HE WAS hearing voices, believed that thoughts were being put into his head and that he was under constant surveillance. Nathan Clifford from Whiteley was diagnosed with schizophrenic affective disorder at 19, following two serious suicide attempts. Needing intensive treatment and heavily medicated, it would have been easy to assume that his future was bleak. It would be almost impossible to have imagined that he would go on to work in mental health services, helping those who are currently struggling with the dark places that he is only too familiar with. But here he is today, a charming and friendly 26-year-old, full of enthusiasm for his job as a peer support worker for Solent Mind and Southern Health NHS Trust. Daily Echo (UK), 10th November 2015
Hearing voices, and living with them Ron Coleman has been hearing voices no one else hears for 36 years. For the first 10 of those, he was homeless or hospitalized with schizophrenia. During the remainder, the quick-witted Scotsman learned to live with the voices and teach others how to do it, too. Coleman and his wife, Karen Taylor, a psychiatric nurse, came to Philadelphia this week as emissaries of what is known as the hearing voices movement. It argues that taking psychotic voices seriously and developing a relationship with them can help people with serious mental illnesses have fulfilling lives. “Hearing voices is a normal human experience,” Coleman said. “The problem is not hearing voices. The problem is how people respond to voices.” Philly.com (USA), 31st October 2015
Hearing voices is part of the job “People say you’ve got to have a gift to be a medium. But everybody is sensitive,” she added. “Spirits want people to know they still love them. They want to help.” Mediums communicate in different ways, with some seeing pictures or hearing voices. It can be a specific detail, such as a person’s name or a door number. June said: “With me, it’s a sense of knowing something.” The Sentinel (UK), 25th October 2015
Cardiff University study on the science of hallucinations Researchers worked with colleagues at the University of Cambridge to study the predictive nature of the brain. They looked at the idea that hallucinations happen due to the brain’s tendency to interpret the world using prior knowledge and predictions. The study examined whether the brain creating this image of the world contributes to people’s psychosis. Research published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences studied 18 people who suffered from very early signs of psychosis who had been referred to a mental health service run by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. They compared them to 16 healthy volunteers and asked them if they could make sense of vague black and white images. All of them were then shown the full colour original picture to improve the brain’s ability to understand the ambiguous image. There was a larger performance improvement in people with early signs of psychosis compared to the healthy control group. The University of Cambridge’s Naresh Subramaniam said: “These findings are important because, not only do they tell us that the emergence of key symptoms of mental illness can be understood in terms of an altered balance in normal brain functions. “Importantly, they also suggest that these symptoms and experiences do not reflect a ‘broken’ brain but rather one that is striving – in a very natural way – to make sense of incoming data that are ambiguous.” BBC News (UK), 12th October 2015
Hearing voices: The people who say talking back is the only answer AMANDA Waegeli had been hearing voices since she was a teenager, so when she went into hospital to have her seventh child, she was comforted to have the Virgin Mary speak to her. But after she went into cardiac arrest on the operating table and had three blood transfusions, literally dying for a few short moments, things turned darker. “After a few weeks in intensive care, I was physically fine, but mentally distorted,” she told news.com.au. “The voices were loud and confusing, in a negative way. It was hard for me to discern what was real. They said it had been a mistake, I was supposed to die.” Amanda was put into psychiatric care, dosed with heavy medication and given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). She was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis, and later, clinical depression and bipolar disorder. “The longer you’re in the system, the more diagnoses you get,” she said. “Despite being compliant, I wasn’t getting much relief, I was just hampered by side-effects.” Eventually, Amanda heard about the Hearing Voices Network, a global support group that operates in 25 countries and was established in Australia 10 years ago. The network takes a radically different approach to that of traditional mental health services, encouraging people to listen to their voices instead of trying to block them out. News.com (Australia), 11th October, 2015
World Mental Health Day: William and Kate hear young people’s stories at Mind event The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have marked World Mental Health Day by meeting young people and hearing their stories of how they battled the issue and are now helping others to do the same. Kate and William looked visibly moved as they spoke to people about the stigma associated with mental health and the importance of the work of charities like Mind. They started their visit to Harrow College in north-west London by sitting with young women who told of their personal experiences of dealing with mental health issues and who now volunteer with the anti-stigma campaign It was the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first joint engagement in support of mental health issues. William asked one volunteer: “What made you get involved do this as a vocation, almost?” Nikki Mattocks, 18, replied: “For me it is because, for years – I have experience of hearing voices – and I never really felt there was a positive role model out there. “When I said that I was hearing voices, I was told that I must be a murderer. “For me it is really important for people to know that we are just normal, average people.” BT.com (UK), 10th October 2015
Good health with Dr Stu – Beating demons of the mind ‘THE witch’ first started speaking evil thoughts into my mind when I was working in a hospital in Gambia, West Africa. To everyone else she was a concerned-looking 50-something woman crouching over a feverish relative. My supernatural sensitivity said otherwise. Utterly oblivious, I was suffering the horrifying symptoms of schizophrenia and was utterly convinced the hallucinations were real. It was several weeks later, after returning to the UK, that reality slowly returned and I stopped hearing voices. It took me years to gain the courage to tell anyone of my experiences and longer to write about them. For this is the nature of mental illnesses. Few people want to talk about them. They feel shame for those who suffer them and – even in 2015 – those affected can be branded ‘mad’ or ‘weak’. This Saturday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day and is a chance for us all to understand more about how mental health problems affect us. Wiltshire Times, (UK), 9th October 2015
‘My illness does not define me’: Writer of new film tells how she coped with being diagnosed with schizophrenia at 20 ALICE was diagnosed with schizophrenia aged 20 when the pressures of working three jobs while at university pushed her over the edge. Now 38 years old and living Camden Town, she is directing a feature-length film about a wartime romance and studying for an art PhD. She says people who experience psychotic episodes – often portrayed in the media as mouth-frothing maniacs or dangers to society – need not be feared and should not be given up on. Alice said: “We need to be more kind and understanding to people, more considerate when you see someone in the street having a hard time, or on the bus being bizarre. “It’s understandable, people are frightened of unknown things. But when I am unwell, I am more frightened of myself. It’s more terrifying for people who are experiencing it, sometimes overwhelmingly frightening. There have been incidents when people have done stupid stuff or horrific things, but that is incredibly over-reported.” She added: “I think people should think about people in terms of them experiencing schizophrenia, rather than being schizophrenic. I think that term is derogatory. The condition does not define you.” Alice describes her condition as a “thought and mood disorder” which can at times make her hear voices or see things that are not there – often through the computer, television or on the radio. She said: “First what happens is my sleep pattern goes off, then I start getting intrusive thoughts – negative thoughts about myself. If I turn on the radio, or the computer, it might talk back to me. The computer can type back at me. The radio can start talking to me, and, rather than switching it off, I’d keep listening to it. I’d stay up all night listening to it, thinking that is incredibly interesting stuff. Front pages of the newspaper can change from what is actually written there. It is very weird, but it all feels so real.” She said: “When I was 20 I started hearing voices, and seeing things on telly. It’s hard to describe. My perception of reality shifted. I still have to check myself, even now when I’m well, I can still sometimes hear voices and crowds shouting at me and things like that. I have to block it out.” Camden New Journal, (UK), 8th October 2015
Hearing voices – Ending the stigma of mental illness She was the teenage girl with courage in her heart—and voices in her head—who rose from obscurity to lead the French army to important victories during the Hundred Years’ War. Almost 600 years after Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake, some doctors and scholars have “diagnosed” the historical figure with disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia. During her trial, she testified that voices in her head instructed her to deliver France from the invading English and establish Charles VII, the uncrowned heir to the French throne, as the country’s rightful king. But whether or not she was mentally ill, the debate about ‘hearing voices’ is as relevant now as it was then. With mental health charities suggesting that one in 20 of the population regularly ‘hears voices’, research suggests that at least 70% of voice-hearers are thought to have experienced some sort of trauma. The Courier (UK), 3rd October 2015
In Some Cultures People with Schizophrenia Actually Like the Voices They Hear Hearing voices of non-existent interlocutors is a common symptom of schizophrenia. But it seems that the voice-hearing experience among people with the disorder may vary depending on where they are from, according to a new study. In the study, published recently in Topics in Cognitive Science, researchers looked at how people with schizophrenia from three different societies experienced hearing voices. They found that people from the US tended to describe the voices as intrusive unreal thoughts they hated. In contrast, people from South India were more likely to describe them as providing useful guidance, and people from Ghana were more likely to think of them as morally good. “I was actually surprised that they were so different,” study author Tanya M. Luhrmann of Stanford University told Braindecoder. Braindecoder, (USA), 1st October 2015
What it’s like … to hear voices I tend to think of my voices as an amplifier of whatever I’m experiencing. I’m never without them. They’re hardly ever quiet. But if I’m in a good space and I’m not tired, and things are going well, it’s like having a bunch of friends around. But then, if I’m starting to struggle with something, they will rib me for it. It starts in a joking way, but then if I ignore it, it becomes nagging and then it becomes yelling. It becomes more and more negative, and more and more distracting. It’s like having a broken tooth that eventually gets so painful, you can’t pay attention to anything else. The Globe and Mail (Canada), 22nd September 2015
I hear voices in my head, but I’m fine – video Eleanor Longden started hearing voices when she was 18. She was drugged and hospitalised, then told she was schizophrenic. A psychiatrist even told her she would have been better off with cancer, because it would have been easier to cure. Most people assume mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. But, she argues, mental illness is not random, it is a response to traumas we have been through in the past, The Guardian (UK), 9th September, 2015
Hearing Voices Network Responds to Susan Inman Huff Piece On Saturday morning, Susan Inman, writing for HuffPost Canada, published “What You’re not Hearing About the Hearing Voices Movement.” Inman criticizes the Hearing Voices Network for “failing to differentiate between the needs of people who actually have psychotic disorders and those who don’t.” On Sunday the Bay Area Hearing Voices Network published an open letter in response, writing: “Ms. Inman has profoundly mischaracterized hearing voices networks (HVNs) and also demonstrates a troubling lack of understanding of the empirical literature on psychosis, optimal psychosocial intervention and recovery.” Mad in America (USA), 31st August 2015
The voices in your head One morning Corina woke up and heard a female voice narrating everything she did in the third person: “She’s going to the toilet. She’s having a shower. She’s cleaning her teeth.” While Corina didn’t recognise the voice, it felt as if this woman was in the same room. Except of course that she wasn’t. “It was a very strange experience,” Corina says, “at that stage I couldn’t make any sense of it.” Initially the voice 44-year-old Corina first heard back in November 2012 wasn’t a negative one, so she decided to “just put up with it, basically.” But things were about to get much harder. Corina, who is heavily involved in support group Hearing Voices Network WA, urges other voice hearers to “have hope that recovery is possible.” However she also makes it clear that “recovery” doesn’t necessarily mean the voices ever go away. “It’s not about getting rid of the voices, but changing the relationship with them. Changing the balance power away from the voices and back to yourself,” Corina says. News Australia (Australia), 29th August 2015
What You’re not Hearing About the Hearing Voices Movement Recently the Hearing Voices Movement (HVM) has been receiving a lot of very positive press in Canada. The Globe and Mail, CBC’s Tapestry program and the University of British Columbia’s alumni magazine TREK have offered similar kinds of stories. The public finds out about the long known but not well-publicized fact that lots of people who have auditory hallucinations don’t have mental illnesses. Then we learn about someone who benefitted from the supportive atmosphere that the Hearing Voices Movement’s programs offers. We hear that this program helps people better manage their voices. How could anyone object to such a helpful use of our very limited mental health budgets? Some of us need to object because, by failing to differentiate between the needs of people who actually have psychotic disorders and those who don’t, HVM poses serious risks says Susan Inman. The Huffington Post (USA), 29th August 2015
Seeing Visions and Hearing Voices: Richard Holloway at the Edinburgh International Book Festival At the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Tuesday, Richard discussed his thoughts – and he is at pains to stress that that’s all they are, he has no answers to give us – with Andrew Franklin. At the coalface of the search for meaning, he says, are the prophets – from Mohammed in his cave to Moses in Sinai and Pascal with the Memorial (his record of a transcendent experience) sewn into his coat; stories of people who claim to have heard the voice of God litter history, so what are we to make of these alleged first-hand experiences? These days people who claim to hear voices are more likely to be medicalised than encouraged to start new religions. But what if – as William James suggests in Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) – some people really can make contact with the intelligence behind the universe? Do we dismiss them as nutters or do we believe everything they say? Well neither, says Richard – in fact, extremism is really what this talk is all about, and it’s something that hurts him profoundly. The Edinburgh Reporter (UK), 19th August 2015
Coming to terms with hearing voices Marlene Janssen (41) was overwhelmed with depression and anxiety while growing up but did not expect to hear voices in her head. She struggled with mental distress at school but finished university and qualified as a nurse. After a back injury at work, she was given benzodiazepine for depression and anxiety. She was also taking sleeping tablets, painkillers and anti-depressants. Ms Janssen became addicted to benzodiazepine and the depression continued. The next few years of her life were spent in and out of different hospitals and in front of different doctors and psychiatrists. In 2001, she returned to her homeland of Holland. She worked at a nursing home but became isolated when she contracted glandular fever and had to stop work. “The depression kicked back in and that’s when I started hearing voices,” she said. “The first voice I heard told me to harm myself; it said ‘throw yourself down the stairs and everything will be fine’. “I was petrified. I also started doing really strange stuff I have no recollection of, like waking up next to a pond in my pyjamas with my bike next to me and I had no idea how I got there.” Ms Janssen’s parents convinced her to return to Australia but when she told doctors about the voices, she was put on high doses of anti-psychotic drugs. “It’s like your brain is in a fog; you can’t function,” she said. “The voices were dulled, but I couldn’t think either.” She was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder but her life changed when she went to Richmond Wellbeing in 2005. “A recovery worker helps you come up with a recovery plan,” she said. “They ask what goals you want to achieve and what you need to do to achieve them.” Ms Janssen learnt coping strategies, including listening to music, using breathing techniques and hitting a basketball with a tennis racket to get rid of tension and anger.
“They also helped with the little things that matter; having a shower every day, brushing your hair, taking pride in your appearance,” she said. Ms Janssen also joined the Hearing Voices Network, where she could talk without fear of judgement. After she came out of the Richmond Wellbeing facility in 2006, she was a changed person. She learnt to cope with the voices and got a job as a project officer in the Hearing Voices Network. Ms Janssen moved on to a number of positions in the organisation, including helping people who had been in mental health facilities integrate back into the community. Community News (Australia), 19th August2015
Inside Out, Cannes review: ‘you’ll laugh, you’ll cry’ The film begins with nothing less moving than the birth of a human consciousness – specifically, Riley’s, a baby girl who’s being cradled in the arms of her mother and father. In an abstract space, a yellow sprite called Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) emerges into a spotlight, and presses a single button on a polished stand. Back outside, the baby’s eyes light up, and she giggles. Her parents’ hearts melt in an instant. Riley’s life has begun. Most of Inside Out plays out in these two zones simultaneously: real life, where Riley is now 11 years old and moving with her family from rural Minnesota to San Francisco, and within her Headquarters, where Joy has been joined by Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader) and Anger (Lewis Black), whose job it is to guide Riley’s decision-making in the outside world. The film devises an detailed system whereby Riley’s experiences are turned into glassy, spherical memories which go on to shape her growing personality. Daily Telegraph (UK), 24th July 2015
Hearing voices: Auditory hallucinations vary across cultures Voices heard by some schizophrenics are strange, angry and threatening. But others hear voices that are familiar, helpful and comforting. Varying across cultures, these voices tell us something: What we believe shapes what we hear — and how we feel, according to Stanford anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, whose first-ever cultural comparison found that Bay Area patients experienced more negative voices than patients in India and Ghana. “The harsh, violent voices so common in the West may not be an inevitable feature of schizophrenia,” Luhrmann said. In modern psychiatry, auditory hallucinations are a sign of severe mental illness. Medication is often used to exorcise the voices. Luhrmann’s work supports the approach taken by a new and controversial branch of psychiatry, which asserts that these imagined voices should not be banished by medication. Instead, it argues that if people accept their voices and create a relationship with them, their voices could turn more amicable. San Jose Mercury News (USA) , 21st July 2015
How hearing voices, long assumed a sign of mental illness, can be a part of the human experience Kevin Healey hears voices and music no one else can. When he’s in a good mood, his auditory hallucinations sound as though he’s in the midst of a party, with jovial voices cracking jokes and making him laugh. When he’s having a hard time, the voices tease him and escalate into angry shouts if he ignores them. He rarely experiences silence. Over the years, the 53-year-old Toronto resident has learned to live with a constant symphony of sounds without the use of medication. He listens to his voices, converses with them and has even come to appreciate the chatter. “I would be regretful if it went away,” says Healey, who began hearing phantom sounds at the age of six. “It’s just kind of part of me and I’ve made peace with that. The Globe and Mail (Canada), 12th July 2015
Living With the Voices in Your Head: At least 2.5 percent of the population hears sounds – including voices – that other people don’t Lisa Forestell has heard voices as long as she’s had memories. They have distinct personalities and sounds: There’s a middle-aged male voice that talks to her behind her left ear and two young female voices that perch behind her right. “They’re playful and silly and they try to cheer me up when I’m sad,” says Forestell, a 49-year-old director of community support at Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community, which helps people who have experienced extreme emotional distress, including hearing voices, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. For years, Forestell didn’t talk about what talked to her. “I had learned that if I told people, I’d be sent to a psychiatrist who would want the voices to go away,” she says. “I’m not someone who wants my voices to go away.” But today, mental health professionals don’t necessarily want voices, like the ones Forestell hears, to go away either. In study after study, researchers have found that psychotic experiences like hearing voices are relatively common – and not always a sign of mental illness. US News and World Report (USA), 2nd July 2015
Hearing words, writing sounds: examining the author’s brain Kamila Shamsie always revises her work by reading aloud, but AS Byatt looks for the rhythms of the page. Richard Lea goes in search of what happens in the brain when we write and read fiction. The Guardian (UK), 2nd July 2015
Brian Wilson: ‘Every day I thank God for another day of life’ The legendary creative force behind the Beach Boys, who invented surf music, composed a string of million-selling hits and then succumbed to drink, drugs and mental illness under the controlling influence of a Svengali-like psychotherapist, finds it difficult to talk about the dark years and what he calls his “demons”. Heavily medicated and grossly overweight, he spent two years in bed, only getting up to occasionally wander outside in his dressing gown. But now, aged 72, touring with his band and producing what critics are calling his best work, Wilson is confronting those harrowing years as they are portrayed in a new film, Love and Mercy. Named after a song on his 1988 solo album, the film details his physical abuse at the hands of his father, his experience with psychedelic drugs and battles with his brothers and bandmates, who did not understand his desire to move on from songs about surfing and hot-rods to more quirky, lushly orchestrated music with accomplished session musicians. The film has proved such a success that Wilson has postponed his UK tour to promote it in the US. Telegraph Online, 26th June 2015
Hearing Voices Natasha Merrick has been hearing voices in her head for a long time. She thinks of some of the voices as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad.’ About 20 years ago, she was diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia. Over the years, she’s tried all sorts of treatments: medicines, hospitalization, therapy. But a couple of years ago, Natasha asked her ‘good voices’ to come her aid. “I said, ‘Can you help me get rid of these bad voices?’ And they said yes.”- Natasha Merrick. The voices told her to get more sleep, to get some exercise. They counselled her to stand up to the bad voices. Slowly, Natasha started to feel better. Natasha Merrick is part of something called the Hearing Voices movement. Its mission is to help people cope with the voices they hear in a way that’s positive and useful. Marcie Good’s documentary tells Natasha Merrick’s story. She also talks to one of the leading experts on hearing voices, professor Tanya Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist. Listen to the programme here. CBC Radio (Canada), 19th June 2015
Hearing voices, feeling empathy: FCPD training simulates auditory hallucinations heard by schizophrenics On June 8, dozens of law enforcement officials from the Fairfax County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office sat in a classroom at the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy with iPods attached to an earphone, but they weren’t listening to music or having fun. In fact, they were being cursed at, yelled at and insulted by creepy whispering voices — all part of an ongoing sensitivity training initiative called “Hearing Voices.” They are meant to replicate the types of auditory hallucinations heard daily by some schizophrenics in an effort for law enforcement officers to understand what that is like. As the officers listened to the voices in one ear, renowned crisis intervention Dr. Tom Von Hemert attempted to have the officers read, do simple math and perform menial tasks to see if they could successfully accomplish them. For the most part, they could not. “I couldn’t remember a lot of the questions I was asked,” Fairfax County Deputy Sheriff Victoria Collado said. “Those voices were distracting and scary.” Hemert said the voices and the derogatory things they say are replicated closely to what schizophrenics say they actually hear. “Nothing is very nice. They are hearing negative things,” Hemert said. Hemert said many officers often experience higher blood pressures, anxiety, exhaustion and headaches after experiencing the 45-minute training. “We have had officers who have left the room to go throw up,” he said. “Now you understand why you see a lot of self-medicating and drug abuse associated with mental illness … people snap after putting up with this day in and day out … now you understand the pain these people are in and why they may not be able to immediately comply with your orders when you come into contact with them.” Following the training, one officer said he understood completely. Fairfax Times (USA), 12th June 2015
Hearing Voices: Police Train for Calls Involving Schizophrenia Twenty Fairfax County police officers are “hearing voices” this week as they begin special crisis intervention training. In their first session they put in earbuds and were hit with the same kind of constant haunting, negative chatter that might flood into the brain of someone with schizophrenia.
“This si not an easy session,” warned Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training coordinator Tom von Hemert. “I’ve had some officers fell nauseous or gotten headaches and said, ‘I can’t do it. ‘”
For 45 minutes as the “voices” continue to stream into their heads, they are asked by von Hemert Team instructor to do routine tasks, filling out paperwork, solving a word scramble, reading a story and answering questions. What should be simple becomes hard. Von Hemert quizzes them.
“I put graphics”, replied one officer to a question.
“You put wrong,” snapped von Hemert.
The ridicule is meant to mimic the kind of treatment someone in a mental health crisis might get. After the “voices” stop, the instructor gets some reactions.
“I could almost see myself doing anything to make that stop, anything,” said Mt. Vernon District Officer Eric Becker.
“I felt physically exhausted from this exercise. My heart is stil pounding. My hands are still clammy. I’m beat,” said Master Police Officer Eddy Azcarate.
Von Hemert drove home the message, telling the group it’s key to take it slow when dealing with people with mental health issues. He told officers to acknowledge what the subject is experiencing.
“Don’t argue the delusion. You are not going to win,” advised von Hemert. “You can say I don’t hear this but I understand you are hearing this or thinking this.”
Nationally, it’s estimated between 25 percent and 50 percent of police shootings involve people in a mental health crisis. The goal here of the “hearing voices” excercise: To arm officers with understanding. NBC Washington (USA), 8th June 2015
Granddad shares his story after watching Hearing Voices in Oakville: Theatrical simulation stimulates mental illness dialogue. Just married and battling depression in his mid-20s, Al Duncan pretended life was wonderful each day he went to work as a high school teacher. Making matters worse, he was afraid he would lose his job if his educational bosses knew about his mental illness. That only added to his inner turmoil. “I would put a mask on,” Duncan said. “I was sort of living a double life. I didn’t want to socialize at work. I wanted to be by myself, so I had to let my students think everything was OK. “Fortunately, I was still able to do my job well. Nobody ever questioned me. I was coaching track and field, so it was a relief because I was able to run and jog.” Now retired, the 73-year-old, married grandfather of eight spends his time volunteering for Halton’s Talking About Addiction and Mental Illness (TAMI) program. This week, he was among the three main speakers attending a Mental Health Week event at Oakville’s Sheridan College. Also speaking was Melanie McGregor, communications and health promotion specialist for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), and Natalie Baker, a clinical research specialist with SickKids Research Institute. Duncan’s story was intriguing, but the most jaw-dropping moment of the event for the packed audience, including for him, was the inspiring and emotionally-charged performance of the internationally-acclaimed Hearing Voices, performed by a group of professional dancers choreographed by Sionia Jackson. Dr. Katherine Boydell of Toronto’s SickKids Hospital and mother of three young dancers, realized the importance of dance in people’s lives — and a way of creating awareness about mental illness. She joined forces with Jackson in 2007 and spent six months creating the Hearing Voices performance, which has since played worldwide, to audiences in Australia, England and the U.S. Through their movement, the dancers exhibited emotions — rejection, isolation and pain — many coping with a mental illness experience.
Why hearing voices is more common than you think As a study highlights how hearing voices isn’t always a sign of mental illness, Rachel Waddingham – who has made peace with her 13 voices – explains why this is an issue we all need to hear about. Waddingham, who is married and lives in Kent, is determined to raise awareness of the issue, and travels the world through her job as a freelance trainer and consultant for Behind The Label, training people in how to support those who hear voices, or have other sensory experiences. She’s also a trustee of the Hearing Voices Network. She believes it’s vital there’s more open discussion about hearing voices – but being so candid about her own experiences has, on occasion, prompted cruel, misguided attacks. “I’m the person sitting next to you on the train. I’m the person standing next to you at the pub. I am a normal person – the fact I hear voices and have had times when I’ve been overwhelmed, doesn’t make me a different species,” she stresses. “We all have something unique about us. The voices that I hear are just one thing about me that other people don’t share. BT News (UK), 19th April 2015
New trailer for Brian Wilson biopic ‘Love And Mercy’ released A new trailer for Love And Mercy, the forthcoming film about the life of Beach Boys icon Brian Wilson, has been released. Little Miss Sunshine actor Paul Dano stars as the young Brian Wilson, while John Cusack portrays the legendary singer-songwriter later in life. Elizabeth Banks co-stars as Wilson’s second wife, Melinda, and Paul Giamatti plays Wilson’s psychotherapist Dr Eugene Landy. Directed by Bill Pohlad – best known as the producer of 12 Years A Slave and The Tree Of Life – the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last July (2014) to mostly very positive reviews. The film’s official synopsis promises an “unconventional look” at Wilson’s life, explaining: “Love And Mercy centres on the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. Rather than a biopic, the film will take an unconventional look at seminal moments in Wilson’s life, his artistic genius, his profound struggles, and the love that kept him alive.” NME (UK) , 14th April 2015
Hearing Voices Network to help people who hear voices A national organisation for people who hear voices in their head will be officially launched next week with those behind the initiative claiming it can help reduce the stigma attached to an issue which is more common than many people think. Hearing Voices Network Ireland will launch next week and follows a number of HSE-funded training programmes and the establishment of at least 12 local organisations around the country. Hearing Voices Network Ireland joins more than 20 networks globally. Dr Mary Farrelly, a lecturer in mental-health nursing at Dublin City University, said while some people who hear voices may be living contentedly in the community, others are deeply troubled by the issue and may have accessed services. She said people typically experience hearing voices as a sensory experience, rather than as thoughts, and that in some cases they can hear multiple voices. Some can encourage but others can criticise or “command”, but she said there can be many variations. “Research would show that, at quite a high rate, it all started when there was some trauma in their lives,” Dr Farrelly said. “There are some commonalities. Some people have ‘good’ voices and some have ‘bad’ voices.” Irish Examiner (Ireland), 11th April 2015
Hear my voices Hearing voices that nobody else can hear is generally thought of as a classic sign of serious mental illness. And sometimes, it is – but it might also be far more ‘normal’ than many of us realise. A study recently published by Durham University demonstrates how both people with and without psychiatric diagnoses can experience such ‘auditory hallucinations’. In fact, it’s estimated to be something that between 5-15% of adults will experience at some point during their lifetimes. Many of these people may well have a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, but while the majority of the 153 voice-hearers questioned for the Durham University study had been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, 26 had no history of mental illness. Kidderminster Shuttle (UK), 10th April 2015
‘After I was called a freak I kept the fact I heard voices a secret, but they don’t scare me anymore’ As a study highlights how hearing voices isn’t always a sign of mental illness, Rachel Waddingham, who has made peace with her 13 voices, tells Lisa Salmon why this is an issue that we all need to hear about. Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland), 9th April 2015
Rebel Wilson’s Hallucinations Made Her Dream of Becoming an Actress Rebel Wilson is pretty in pink on the cover of Elle UK magazine’s May 2015 issue, out on newsstands on Thursday (April 2). Here’s what the 29-year-old actress had to share with the mag: On realizing she wanted to become an actress: “I was in Mozambique [on a] trip. I caught malaria and the medicines caused a hallucination. I dreamt I won an Oscar for acting. I know it sounds stupid, but it was so real and I just knew then it would happen. When I came back, everyone was like: ‘Rebel, you can’t be an actress because you’re so smart,’ but I was sure.” Elle Magazine (UK), 2nd April 2015
Creatively Managing Voice-Hearing Through Spiritual Writing It is now over thirteen years since I started hearing voices and I am fifty-five years old. The thirty-seventh anniversary of my nervous breakdown passed in March. The voices have quieted down, not because I am taking more medication, but because I have gone through inner stages and phases of spiritual growth and change after periodic dark nights of the soul. What orthodox psychiatry does not understand or accept is the spiritual dimension that permeates physical reality. I believe mainstream science has it backwards, and alternative medicine and transpersonal psychologists will attest to this. Mad in America (USA), 26th March 2015
Listen Up: More to Auditory Hallucinations Than Hearing Voices A novel survey of individuals who experience auditory hallucinations reveals that the phenomenon is far more varied, complex, and nuanced than simply “hearing voices” ― findings that challenge mainstream psychiatric assumptions. “We were expecting to find very clear patterns in people’s experience of hearing voices, but we didn’t,” study investigator Angela Woods, PhD, Centre for Medical Humanities and School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, Durham University, in the United Kingdom, told Medscape Medical News. “The heterogeneity and the diversity of people’s experience hearing voices were pretty overwhelming.” The study was published online March 11 in the Lancet Psychiatry. Medscape (USA), 18th March 2015
Scientists are trying to figure out whether you’re actually hearing voices in your head Hearing voices in your head is often a symptom associated with schizophrenia, but a team of researchers from the Durham University in England believes there might be something else at work besides this particular mental illness. The scientists designed an exploratory survey to determine whether there’s more to hearing voices than what existing research reveals and they’ve come up with some interesting findings. BGR (USA), 17th March 2015
Psychiatric patients claim ‘hearing voices’ is part of daily life A new study highlights the complexity and variety of the ‘voices’ some psychiatric patients experience. “I hear about 13 or so voices,” she said in a news release from Durham University, in England. “Each of them is different – some have names, they are different ages and sound like different people. Some of them are very angry and violent, others are scared, and others are mischievous.” In fact, “for me, the word ‘voices’ isn’t sufficient,” said Waddingham, a trustee of the National Hearing Voices Network in the United Kingdom, and the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis. She said that while she uses the word voices to convey her experience, the word also “hides the embodied parts of my experience for which I have few words to describe.” Now, a new study from Durham University highlights the complexity and variety of the “voices” some psychiatric patients and others experience. Health 24 (UK), 13th March 2015
What Hearing Voices Is Like, As Told By Those With Auditory Hallucinations Society’s idea of “hearing voices” is a hodgepodge of what’s depicted in horror movies and psychological thrillers. A recent study aimed to strip away the stigma and misconception associated with this experience by flat-out asking the public to describe, in their own words, what it’s like to hear the voice of someone who is not there. Auditory hallucinations are described as false perceptions of sound and throughout time have been associated with everything from divine communication to severe mental illness. In reality, between five to 13 percent of adults “hear voices” at some point in their lives, iflscience reported. In the study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, a team of researchers from Durham and Stanford Universities asked 153 volunteers with a range of mental diagnoses, including 26 who had never had a psychiatric diagnosis, to describe their personal experiences with auditory hallucinations. According to the researchers, the responses of the volunteers challenged the very definition of auditory hallucination. The researchers wrote in an essay published on iflscience that science has long speculated that voices perceived to be heard from outside the head are significantly more serious than voices perceived as thought-like. However, the results of the study showed that this was not always the case. Just under half of respondents described the voices to be akin to hearing somebody speaking in the same room, but 10 percent reported that they heard “thought-like” voices, Hearing The Voice reported. A further 40 percent reported hearing “mixed” voices, that is, voices which had both thought-like and auditory characteristics. Medical Daily, 13th March 2015
Coming to a town near you: real help for voice hearers The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care is pleased to announce that its Hearing Voices Research and Development Fund has received $250,000 in funding for a 3-year project to bring Hearing Voices peer support groups to communities across the United States and to research the mechanisms by which these peer-support groups work. The project will train more than 100 facilitators in 5 regions of the country and create a stronger regional and local infrastructure of Hearing Voices peer support groups across the U.S.
People who hear voices, see visions, or experience other unusual perceptions, thoughts, or actions have long been diagnosed as psychotic and given a poor prognosis. Medications provide only partial help and their benefits typically diminish over time while destructive physical and psychological side effects become increasingly problematic.
For the past 25 years, the Hearing Voices Network (HVN), an international collaboration of professionals, people with lived experience, and their families and friends has worked to develop an alternative approach to coping with voices, visions, and other extreme states that is empowering and useful and does not start from the assumption of chronic illness (see www.hearing-voices.org, www.hearingvoicesusa.org, www.intervoiceonline.org). A large scientific literature now provides support for key aspects of this approach, and the hundreds of peer-support groups that have developed in 30 countries on 5 continents are enabling voice hearers – even those who have been chronically disabled – to learn to cope more effectively or to rid themselves of the negative effects of their voices.The US lags far behind other countries in offering this important new approach, and the new funding provides crucial support as more and more mental health organizations across the country seek training to start their own hearing voices peer-support groups. Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (USA), 12th March 201
A Conversation with Gail Hornstein and Jacqui Dillon Jacqui-Gail Jacqui Dillon is National Chair of the Hearing Voices Network, England, and Gail Hornstein, PhD, is an author and Professor of Psychology at Mount Holyoke College. They are advisors to the Hearing Voices Research & Development Fund at the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care. Gail and Jacqui, the Hearing Voices Research and Development Fund has received $250,000 in new funding. Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (USA), 12th March 2015
Do you hear multiple voices in your head at times? Research reveals that the voices are far more varied and complex than previously thought. The study found that the majority of voice-hearers hear multiple voices with distinct character-like qualities, with many also experiencing physical effects on their bodies.The team also confirmed that both people with and without psychiatric diagnoses hear voices. “The findings have the potential to overturn mainstream psychiatric assumptions about the nature of hearing voices. These show that there is an unrecognised complexity in the ‘character’ qualities of some voices,a explained lead researcher Dr Angela Woods from the centre for medical humanities at Durham University in Britain. For the study, researchers collected answers through an on-line questionnaire focused on description of experiences from 153 respondents. India Times (India), 11th March 2015
Many People Hear Voices — And It Isn’t Always A Sign Of Illness Have you ever had a voice in your head that didn’t feel like your own? Or heard a voice speaking out loud that you know wasn’t really there? Psychologists used to say these were signs of mental illness. But now it turns out that they aren’t that unusual — and even people who hear a lot of voices have a wide range of experiences with them. A new study published this week in The Lancet Psychology is the result of an online survey and in-depth analysis of 153 people who have heard voices. What the researchers found was that there is huge variation in ways that people “hear things.” For example, the stereotype of a person with schizophrenia is that they hear angry voices telling them to do terrible things — we’ve all seen this in countless bad movies. But many people who hear voices say that they aren’t so much “voices” as they are characters, with personalities, who are trying to hold conversations. Often they are internal voices and don’t say anything aloud. It’s almost as if they are exaggerated of the kinds of internal dialogues we have in our heads every day, as we debate what to do after work or whether we should really blow a bunch of money on the new MacBook. Gizmodo (Australia), 12th March 2015
Hearing Voices? The Complexity of Auditory Hallucinations Though hearing voices is often stigmatized as the product of mental health issues, it’s fairly common to hear voices. As many as 15% of people hear voices at some point, though only 1% have schizophrenia. Previous research suggests that these auditory hallucinations may be shaped by cultural factors. And now, a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry Today has found that the voices people hear may be more multidimensional than scientists previously believed. Researchers provided 153 respondents with online surveys about their experiences hearing voices. Twenty-six had no history of mental health issues, and 127 had a mental health diagnosis. The surveys allowed participants to respond in their own words, giving researchers access to a broad array of subjective characterizations. Eighty-one percent of participants reported that they heard multiple voices, with 70% attributing playful characteristics to these voices. Less than half reported that the voices were only auditory. Instead, the majority reported that the voices they heard presented as a combination of thoughts and voices. Sixty-six percent of participants experienced physical sensations while hearing voices. Those who experienced such sensations were more likely to characterize the voices they heard as abusive. Many participants reported negative associations with the voices they heard, but 31% also reported positive emotions. Good Therapy (USA) 12th March, 2015
Hearing Voices: tracing the borders of normality “… Within this approach, what is important is that the experiences are deemed meaningful. Romme and Escher found that for many people suppressing or avoiding voices sometimes helped in the short term, but were related to distress over a longer period. Rather, acceptance and attempts to understand the voices are encouraged. As psychologist and voice-hearer Eleanor Longden described in her recent TED talk, she believes that the voices were trying to give her a meaningful message about the experiences she had, and it was only as she began to listen to this that she was able to cope with them. For Dr Cohen, the testimonials of voice hearers such as Eleanor Longden, Ron Coleman, and others about the potential of the Hearing Voices Network approach “is very powerful.” The Lancet, 10th March, 2015
The strange world of felt presences What links polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, sleep paralysis, and hearing voices? If voices and presences were to overlap in some way then it could have consequences both for research and treatment, when help is sought. For instance, researchers might need to look closer at social factors that seem to trigger voices, or study brain networks that support social cognition and body representation. Approaches that involve interacting with voices and treating them like people – something that voice-hearers themselves have often advocated – could prove to be useful for health professionals, and some psychologists are already having success with such techniques. In this way, the third man does not just tell us about our own minds or bodies; it offers us a way to help and understand others – just as he did for Shackleton. The Guardian (UK), 5th March 2015
Developing a Compassionate Voice as a Step Toward Living With Voices I’ve previously written about the possible role of compassion focused therapy in helping people relate better to problematic voices, in my posts Could compassionate self talk replace hostile voices?
I’m happy to see more interest being taken in this kind of approach, and a video has just become available which, in 5 minutes, very coherently explains how a compassion focused approach can completely transform a person’s relationship with their voices and so transform the person’s life!
The video is an animation developed by Charlie Heriot-Maitland working with Eleanor Longden and Rufus May who do the voiceovers. Mad in America, 26th February 2015
Marijuana study: Does smoking skunk really cause psychosis? There’s a new study on the relationship between cannabis and psychosis, the apparent conclusion of which is that super-strong skunk is causing around one in four new psychosis cases in the UK.Data obtained from 780 south Londoners, more than half of whom were patients with first-episode psychosis, suggests that people who smoke particularly potent marijuana are more likely to experience a psychotic episode than those who don’t — or those who smoke hash instead. It is, however, problematic to extrapolate on this small-sized sample, chosen specifically because of the area’s notorious cannabis predilection; the researchers themselves state their conclusions carefully. As ever with these sorts of studies, there remain questions over the reliability of self-reporting and whether these skunk smokers were already psychologically susceptible. Though it might be a step too far to use as evidence that weed is to blame for a quarter of ‘all new serious mental disorders’ – as the Mail on Sunday did – the findings are significant for the study’s interrogation of pot potency and use frequency. Independent, 16th February 2015
Skunk’s psychosis link is only half the cannabis story Opponents of cannabis use have this week seized on the results of a new study in the UK that highlights the dangers of ultra-powerful “skunk” cannabis. The research suggests that skunk users treble their risk of psychosis compared with non-users, and quintuple it if they use skunk daily. But New Scientist has found that another purified extract of cannabis is showing great promise as a potential drug to prevent or treat psychosis. New Scientist (UK), 16th February 2015
Super strong cannabis responsible for quarter of new psychosis cases Risk of developing psychosis up to five times greater for those who smoke ‘skunk’ cannabis every day. One in four new cases of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia could be the direct result of smoking extra-strong varieties of cannabis, a major new study concludes.
The finding suggests that about 60,000 people in Britain are currently living with conditions involving hallucinations and paranoid episodes brought on by abuse of high-potency cannabis, known as skunk, and more than 300,000 people who have smoked skunk will experience such problems in their lifetime.
The six-year study, the first of its kind in Britain, calculates that daily users of skunk are five times more likely to suffer psychosis than those who never touch it. Psychiatrists said there is now an “urgent need” for a drive to educate the public about the risks involved with the substance. It is believed that even newer varieties, some of them more than twice as potent as those currently available on British streets, have already been developed in the Netherlands.
The findings reopen the debate about the classification of cannabis as an illegal drug, with some supporters of liberalisation now considering tougher restrictions on some varieties. Daily Telegraph (UK), 15th February 2015
International Expert Launches Hearing Voices Network in Queensland LIVING WORKING WITH VOICES can be a difficult journey – and it is one that Dr Rufus May understands well.
Dr. May works as a consultant clinical psychologist in UK’s mental health services. He delivers teaching on hearing voices internationally. His passion for this area is rooted in his own experiences of mental breakdown, psychiatric treatment and recovery in his late teens. Rufus’s work was featured in the channel 4 (UK) documentary, “The Doctor who Hears Voices”, which achieved acclaim and also debate about his creative approaches to supporting recovery.
Now a spotlight will be put on the issue in MACKAY and TOWNSVILLE, during the launch of Hearing Voices Qld network with a focus on mental health support and recovery, by a workshop being hosted by Mental Illness Fellowship North Queensland (MIFNQ), Central Queensland University and Hearing Voices Qld. Talking Fairligh, 11th February 2015
‘Voices’: Do you hear what killer Reynolds hears? It takes a bold filmmaker and a particularly courageous Hollywood actor to make a stylized and twisted dark comedy about an unapologetic serial killer who hears voices and gorily chops up his victims. The fact that the voices he hears belong to his dog and cat makes The Voices even weirder, though undeniably imaginative. USA Today, 6th February 2015
Hearing Voices In The Eradication Of Schizophrenia In Western Europe Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆This ambitious piece of theatre written by Jon Haynes and David Woods explores the effects of psychosis by plunging its audience into a chaos that leads us all to question the relationship between truth and delusion. The audience witnesses two interconnected stories, acted out simultaneously on a stage divided by net-curtained windows, performed by the same characters at different times in their lives.
On one side, it’s the breakdown of a mother (Patrizia Paolini), where mundane demands from the children about dinner and who’s sleeping where become absurd in the light of her increasingly baffling responses. On the other other side, we are party to the therapy sessions of oldest son Richard (Jon Haynes) many years later in a mental institution, revealing the instability of his father and doctor (John Gorick) as much as his own.
The innovative staging allows each side of the story to weave in and out of each other and in the show’s best moments voices clash, echo and imitate, leaving you with an unsettling sense of losing your own grasp on reality.
The script is witty and tightly crafted with the chaos of the action made more absurd and hilarious by the dialogue of characters each as self-absorbed as the next in a world which could be inside any of their heads. Richard’s acute awareness of his personal reality and the behaviour of those around him throw the binaries of ‘sane’ and ‘mad’ into question. Haynes’s performance stands out in particular, having an emotional and a physical intensity that is both captivating and convincing.
The disorientation the play invokes in its audience is both enjoyable and unsettling. Moments of humour are cut through with a sense of falling backwards through space; there is little – perhaps too little – in the way of plot certainty to grasp onto and you are left grappling for meaning as ‘reality’ moves in and out of focus.
The show is not perfect in its execution, but its remarkable originality both conceptually and in its staging make it a provocative and compelling experience. By Savannah Whaley
The Eradication Of Schizophrenia In Western Europe runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until the 14th February (and pops up in a few other London venues afterwards). Tickets £12/£15. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket. The Londonist (UK), 4th February 2015
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back Research suggests that up to one in 25 people hears voices regularly and that up to 40 per cent of the population will hear voices at some point in their lives. But many live healthy and fulfilling lives despite those aural spectres.
Recently, more than 200 other voice-hearers from around the world gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece, for the sixth annual World Hearing Voices Congress, organised by Intervoice, an international network of people who hear voices and their supporters. They reject the traditional idea that the voices are a symptom of mental illness. They recast voices as meaningful, albeit unusual, experiences, and believe that potential problems lie not in the voices themselves but in a person’s relationship with them.
“If people believe their voices are omnipotent and can harm and control them, then they are less likely to cope and more likely to end up as psychiatric patients,” says Eugenie Georgaca, a senior lecturer at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the organiser of this year’s conference. “If they have explanations of voices that allow them to deal with them better, that is a first step toward learning to live with them.”
The road to this form of recovery often begins in small support groups run by the worldwide Hearing Voices Network (HVN). Founded in the Netherlands in 1987, it allows members to share their stories and coping mechanisms – for example, setting appointments to talk with the voices, so that the voice-hearer can function without distraction the rest of the day – and above all gives voice-hearers a sense of community, as people rather than patients. The Independent (UK), 25th January 2015
Ignoring the voices doesn’t work, says professor If you hear a voice calling you a loser and a coward as you walk home alone and another tells you to get off the street because you are in danger of being killed, don’t ignore them.
Embrace the voices in your head and learn how to live with them is the approach behind the Hearing Voices Network-Atlantic Canada, which has recently been set up in St. John’s and Moncton as pilot projects.
The facilitator is Brenda LeFrançois, associate professor with Memorial University’s school of social work and faculty of medicine.
Conceived in the Netherlands in 1987 by psychiatrist Dr. Marius Romme, the network is a forum for people who hear voices and offers a different strategy in how to cope with them. It is community-based and peer-driven.
“In terms of the specific approach, in broad strokes it involves helping people learn various coping strategies such as engaging with their voices, negotiating with them and forming relationships with them that are positive,” LeFrançois explained. The Telegram (Canada), 23rd January 2015
Is Hearing Voices Part of the ‘Normal’ Human Experience? Mental health stigma is alive and well, but some conditions are more stigmatized than others. Schizophrenia, which can lead to a disconnection from reality called psychosis, remains one of the most misunderstood mental health conditions. Adults with this condition are often shunned and ignored, with between one-third and one-half of people with schizophrenia ending up homeless. The British Psychological Society (BPS) recently released a report designed in part to undermine the stigma associated with schizophrenia and psychosis. The report claims that, far from being the product of an abnormal mind, some symptoms are part of the “normal” continuum of human experience. Good Therapy, 21st January 2015
Redefining Mental Illness TWO months ago, the British Psychological Society released a remarkable document entitled “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia.” Its authors say that hearing voices and feeling paranoid are common experiences, and are often a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation: “Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages.”
The report says that there is no strict dividing line between psychosis and normal experience: “Some people find it useful to think of themselves as having an illness. Others prefer to think of their problems as, for example, an aspect of their personality which sometimes gets them into trouble but which they would not want to be without.”
The report adds that antipsychotic medications are sometimes helpful, but that “there is no evidence that it corrects an underlying biological abnormality.” It then warns about the risk of taking these drugs for years.
And the report says that it is “vital” that those who suffer with distressing symptoms be given an opportunity to “talk in detail about their experiences and to make sense of what has happened to them” — and points out that mental health services rarely make such opportunities available.
This is a radically different vision of severe mental illness from the one held by most Americans, and indeed many American psychiatrists. Americans think of schizophrenia as a brain disorder that can be treated only with medication. Yet there is plenty of scientific evidence for the report’s claims. New York Times, 17th January 2015
The Whisper Whisperers Research suggests that up to 1 in 25 people hears voices regularly and that up to 40 percent of the population will hear voices at some point in their lives. But many live healthy and fulfilling lives despite those aural specters.
In October, Waddingham and more than 200 other voice-hearers from around the world gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece, for the sixth annual World Hearing Voices Congress, organized by Intervoice, an international network of people who hear voices and their supporters. They reject the traditional idea that the voices are a symptom of mental illness. They recast voices as meaningful, albeit unusual, experiences, and believe potential problems lie not in the voices themselves but in a person’s relationship with them.
“If people believe their voices are omnipotent and can harm and control them, then they are less likely to cope and more likely to end up as a psychiatric patient,” says Eugenie Georgaca, a senior lecturer at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the organizer of this year’s conference. “If they have explanations of voices that allow them to deal with them better, that is a first step toward learning to live with them.” Newsweek (USA/Europe) 13th January 2015