News

INTERVOICE

We are a member of  INTERVOICE, (more information here) the international organisation representing networks in 35 countries across the world.

Why we Britons are so depressed, despite all those happy pills

“Consider this: we have some of the highest rates of antidepressant prescribing in the world — and this is rising. The NHS issued 64.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants last year, double the amount from a decade ago. Yet research also shows people are getting more depressed, not less. So what is going on?”

Read more here

Daily Mail, 18th September 2017

Listen To A Voice Of Reason – Article about Hywel Davies and the Hearing Voices Movement

Listen To A Voice Of Reason: An Interview with Hywel Davies
Western Telegraph
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.
Hywel attended.
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.

Mental Health Summer Recovery Camp 2017

Mental Health Summer Recovery Camp 2017

Getting the Experience of a Recovery Community for Everyone

7th – 12th September 2017

Tanycoed Farm, Llansilin, Shropshire, SY10 9BS, Wales

Working To Recovery Ltd hosted their third Summer Recovery Camp.

The purpose was to create an environment of recovery and for everyone to experience it for themselves! Each year the Recovery Camp, grows organically, both leading up to it and during the Camp. During the Recovery Camp there were talks, debates, workshops, alternative therapy and a whole host of other things that happen.The morning begins with Chi Gong, Meditation and other practices. This was followed by a Morning Meeting when we all checked-in. This was followed by workshops. Workshops are run by anyone attending and so range from a whole host of areas.

After lunch, we had a ‘Big Tent Discussion’ – which is led by an invited speaker, who talks on a topic, opening up to a debate and discussion. Following this there were more workshops.

Throughout the day, there were taster sessions of alternative therapy (for donation) and a range of other things that organically grew throughout the camp – like EFT, Zen Tarot Readings, Energy Healing, etc…

The evening was a time to have fun, play and relax. On the last night there was a Mad Pride night, where anyone could stand-up and do a piece – poetry, story telling, singing, magic, comedy, whatever people can bring.

You can find out more about this highly recommended event here.

International Mental Health Congress


 
International Mental Health Congress

 18 & 19 July 2017 | All Nations Centre, Cardiff

The Congress was a great success. 250 people attended from all over Wales and across the globe.

Hywel Davies, chair of the Hearing Voices Network Cymru gave a keynote speech entitled “Living with Voices”. In the speech he said:

“By opening up the possibility of new ways of regarding the experience of voice hearing outside of the medical model we are creating more accepting and hopeful ways of considering so called psychotic experiences as meaningful and resolvable.

By involving users and carers creatively in the decision-making process in terms of policy, legislation, healthcare system and evaluation, we can bring about a more sensitive and humane approach to mental health in the western world. I believe that the lessons learnt over the last thirty years by the Hearing Voices Movement have much relevance to mental health services across the world. Furthermore, ensuring that the experience of people with lived experience is at the centre of thought and action in the recovery process is crucial to the successful development of emancipatory and effective mental healthcare systems …..

…. A principle lesson from my experience is the importance of encouraging voice hearers to talk and share experiences. The voices are not in themselves the problem, it is our relationship with our voices that can at times be overwhelming.

A problem shared is a problem halved.”

You can read Hywel Davies’s keynote speech here

A selection of photographs of the event can be seen here.

The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Hearing Voices Cymru signs Open Letter endorsing the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Mental Health Europe and the British Psychological Society are seeking signatories to a letter endorsing the recent and ground breaking United Nations Special Rapporteur’s report on mental health – to raise awareness of it among the media, policy makers and the mental health sector.

The report calls for a shift away from isolating mental health services which are coercive and inappropriately medicalised to ones that are recovery and community-based & promote social inclusion.

You can find the report here:

You can find the letter of support here:

Some quotes from the report:

  • “The history of psychiatry and mental health care is marked by egregious rights violations”
  • “We have been sold a myth that the best solutions for addressing mental health challenges are medications and other biomedical interventions”.
  • “Conventional wisdom based on a reductionist biomedical interpretation of complex mental health-related issues dominates mental health policies and services, even when not supported by research”.
  • “For decades now, an evidence base informed by experiential and scientific research has been accumulating in support of psychosocial, recovery-oriented services and support and non-coercive alternatives to existing services”.

We are one of a number of organisations from the UK, Europe and beyond that have signed.

If you or your organisation would be interested in signing, please contact [email protected] or email [email protected], and they’ll add your name.

 


Paul Robeson: son of a slave who became a superstar

In 1961 Paul Robeson was diagnosed with ‘depressive paranoid psychosis’. Robeson was driven insane by his humanity. He felt ‘a suffocating weight, a smothering set of expectations that he was unable to meet’. Robeson made multiple suicide attempts and had 50 courses of electroconvulsive therapy.

He had strong links with the Welsh mining community as this extract shows:

“In the West End one evening, Robeson overheard the carousing of a Welsh male voice choir. Men from the Rhondda were in London on a protest march. Robeson was transfixed and joined in with the communal street and pub singing.

In the coming months and years, ‘he forged an intense and remarkable relationship with the men and women of the mining villages of South Wales’.

He visited Pontypridd and the valleys many times, seeing in the miners, who lived in poverty and struggled with thankless tasks, something of American slavery.

The Welsh accepted him unquestioningly: ‘Aren’t we all black down the pit?’ This brings tears to my eyes.

As late as 1957, Robeson was joining in with the miners’ concerts through a radio-link from America to Porthcawl. He couldn’t be there in person as his passport had been cancelled.

Why? Because the Welsh people had awoken Robeson’s political conscience, which was strengthened by his visits to Spain during the Civil War. He also visited the Soviet Union, where he hoped that post-Revolutionary Russia would be a ‘land free of prejudice’.

In this biography of Robeson’s ‘dizzy rise and crashing fall’, his collapse was caused by political naivete. Believing that the Left would abolish racism, he gave to any anti-fascist cause.”

See the review of the new book about the life of Paul Robeson entitled “No way but this: In search of Paul Robeson” by Jeff Sparrow here.

 

Living with Voices: Presentation by Hywel Davies to the International Mental Health Congress 18th & 19th July 2017, All Nations Centre, Cardiff

Croeso.

Welcome.

Prynhawn da.

Good afternoon

Could I ask the meeting to be upstanding to observe one minute’s silence on behalf of all the people in the world diagnosed by psychiatry with schizophrenia who have committed suicide in the past hundred and ten years or so.


It’s nice to see you.
To see you nice.

If I had known that there was going to be so many people at the conference today, I would have worn my wig.
However I didn’t and I haven’t.
You’ll have to accept me as I am.
I am a voice hearer, a retired lecturer of Spanish, a poet and a benefactor.

Born on August 3rd 1954 in St Thomas’s Hospital in Haverfordwest. I was a breach baby and it was a long and difficult birth. The trauma of the birth may have affected my brain and my consequent development.

I was raised at Upper Robeston Farm in Robeston West near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, the only son of Mr. Hugh Davies and Mrs. Henrietta Davies (nee Howell). Educated initially in Milford Haven, at North Road Primary School and then in Gloucestershire at a boarding school called Wycliffe College. I obtained a Combined Honours Degree in French and Spanish at Birmingham University in 1977, then a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Aberystwyth University in 1978.

I have heard voices since about the age of 11. I heard them for the first time at Wycliffe College. There was a nice voice that helped me cope with the fears I had of being in a boarding school and being away from home. The first time I heard a voice was after being told by a boy that he was being bullied. The voice I heard told me to tell the boy to “take no notice”. I duly told the boy to take no notice of the bullying. I continued to hear voices and experienced them as generally helpful throughout my school life until the age of I8.
My life in school was generally happy, productive and successful, occasionally affected by trauma.

 

During my University days I became religious and regularly attended a Welsh speaking chapel.

I enjoyed some of the courses followed at University and the social life. However I kept a little bit of myself to myself at University. I was active in education as a teacher and lecturer in Wales, England and Spain again as a consequence of hearing voices.

Teaching was a vocation (a calling) as at this time I considered myself to be Jesus (and I still do). I heard a voice say “O come unto me little children” and the voice told me that I was a teacher. Some years later I taught Spanish with humour, grace and success to over 350 adults in Milford Haven and Haverfordwest between 1987 and 1996. I am now retired.

Voice hearing is the hearing of a voice or voices inaudible to others. It is not necessarily a sign of a severe mental “illness”. Triggered by bereavement, physical illness, unemployment, divorce and/or some other traumatic event, voice hearing is experienced by 10 – 15% of the population in their life time. 5 – 7% of the population hear a voice or voices at any one given moment in time. 1% of the world population are labelled by psychiatry as “schizophrenic”. 53% of people who are labelled by psychiatry as “schizophrenic”, are voice hearers.

In terms of my mental health milestones, I had a nervous breakdown in May 1983, and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Carmarthen, where I stayed as a patient for three months. At the time I was labelled by psychiatry with the diagnosis of “schizophrenia”. For me this was the beginning of a journey of change, discovery and transformation.

Even though I was diagnosed as having “schizophrenia”, I was never told this, however my mother
was.

Generally I had good psychiatric care. People were attentive and kind.

When I first entered the hospital I was in a single room, initially for two weeks. I lost my ability to speak and I was very frightened. I found the experience of being hospitalised frightening but I found fellowship amongst some of the patients and ancillary staff and my parents visited me in hospital.

In 1985 I was admitted for three months into the psychiatric unit of a general hospital in North Devon. Again I found fellowship amongst one or two of the other patients and staff. Colleagues from the school where I was teaching visited me in hospital.

In the community, on my return to Pembrokeshire, I had contact with a psychiatrist and a Community Psychiatric Nurse. They did not talk with me about my voices and visions.

My main treatment was medication and attendance at Bro Cerwyn Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.

People and relationships with other people helped me to get direction, hope, and friendship.

My mother was a key person who helped me in my recovery. She bought me a book about “schizophrenia”. She encouraged me to think about my experience of “mental illness” in different ways. She encouraged me to see a counsellor who dealt in astrology. My mother also encouraged me to attend my first meeting of Pembrokeshire Mind, at the time, a fledgling mental health charity. She also encouraged me to attend the international hearing voices conference in Maastricht, Holland in 1996. She said that it would be like attending Sunday School.

There are many key individuals, colleagues, relatives and friends who have helped me as an educator and mental health activist. To name a few:

Keith Miles, the Nurse in charge of Bro Cerwyn Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordswest and Richard Robson, the Mind Project Officer in Dyfed, encouraged me to be involved in mental health voluntary work. And I did so.

Sally Clough, an art therapist, humanised and sensitised me and encouraged my love again, of music and film.

David Morgan, a United Reform Church minister gave me Christian love and leadership and David, as Chair of Pembrokeshire Mind, played an important part in my recovery. At this time I helped Pembrokeshire Mind as secretary, vice Chair and Chair.

Guy Norman a worker with West Wales Action for Mental Health was one of the people I reported back to on my return to Wales from the international hearing voices conference in Maastricht, Holland in 1996. Guy ran with the approach of the hearing voices movement and a hearing voices group was established in Pembrokeshire, one of the first in Wales.

Another individual who was and remains a key part of my recovery journey is John Stacey , he is a colleague, friend and confidant with whom I work closely in the hearing voices movement in Wales and elsewhere.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank Ron Coleman. He helped me through his lived experience and he showed that it is possible to get ones life back.

Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, founders of the Hearing Voices movement and editors of the pioneering books “Accepting Voices” and “Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery” were and are key leaders in my recovery. They looked beyond the illness model and created a new reality for voice hearers, one in which voice hearers recovered.

 

It is my firm belief that voice hearers have a contribution to make to society. Or they have the potential to make a contribution to society. According to David Horrobin in his book “The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity”, people have been hearing a voice or voices since 100,000 BC. According to Julian James in his book “The Origin Of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, people have been hearing voices since 15,000 BC. Voice hearers shift human consciousness.

Voice hearers from the past and present include the Prophet Ezekiel, the Prophet Isaiah, St Paul, Teresa of Avila, Zoe Wannamaker and Sir Anthony Hopkins. The cave paintings of early man in the South of France and Northern Spain were, according to David Horrobin in the aforementioned book, inspired by voice hearers.

Voice hearers are, in my assessment, saints, prophets, shaman, gurus and/or geniuses. Or the potential for such. As writers, poets, dancers, actors, artists, musicians, composers, singer-songwriters, believers and/or scientists, voice hearers have been or have been people of worth. Or the potential for such.

For myself, I write poetry and this is an important and healing part of my life.

I take ownership of my experience and feel content. I am proud to be a voice hearer. I believe that I have lived before as Judas Iscariot, a Cathar, a 13th century French “heretic” and James I of England/ James VI of Scotland. I believe that I am Jesus.

I was labelled by psychiatry in a certain way in 1983. However, I think that reincarnation, astrology, spirituality, and complementary therapies can help society in the 21″ century.

I make choices and take responsibility for my own actions. I have been a mental health activist since May 1987. I knew what it was like to suffer and I wanted to make the world a better place. I am a philanthropist and I support a wide range of charitable causes. For instance, l help children with clefts in poor countries of the world (SmileTrain UK) and Christians globally. This has also been a productive and healing part of my life.

I am patron of INTERVOICE (the international network for training education and research into hearing voices). It is a UK registered charity and limited company that is the organising body for the International hearing voices movement.

In support of their work I funded the establishment of the INTERVOICE website and the Hearing Voices Network Cymru website. In 2011 I set up the Hearing Voices Information Resource Pack Fund, this provides financial support for the distribution of the Hearing Voices Information Packs, consisting of books, CD’s and DVD’s about hearing voices from a variety of perspectives. The Resource Packs are distributed globally, to date more than five hundred and eighty Resource Packs have been distributed to five hundred and forty five successful applicants from fifty four countries across the world.

More than thirty years ago in the Western World one would have been locked up in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric unit, for a considerable number of years for admitting that one heard a voice or voices. Today that is not the case. The hearing voices movement is an idea whose time has arrived. In the words of Victor Hugo (the 19th century French writer): “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come”.

The World Hearing Voices Congress was successfully held in Cardiff, in 2012. The Congress attracted important enthusiastic pioneers from all over the world. It was with pride that I, as Chairman of Hearing Voices Network Cymru presided over a public meeting at which Professor Sir Robin Murray spoke bravely and eloquently about his change of attitude towards the concept of “schizophrenia” after a distinguished professional lifetime in British psychiatry. For Murray, “schizophrenia” is not now a bio-chemical imbalance of the brain. He now regards it as a social construct and believes that new ways of supporting people with unusual and extreme experiences, such as those developed by the hearing voices movement, need to be utilised by mental health services.

Spirituality has emerged as a key issue in the hearing voices movement over the years and by occasionally liaising with Dr. Simon McCarthy-Jones, an academic writer , lecturer and activist in the hearing voices movement, Simon has become possibly more aware of spirituality from a variety of perspectives. In the Koran it is stated that “suffering purifies the spirit”. George Clooney, the American actor, once said that:

“Religion is for those who do not wish to go to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there”.

I have no reason to doubt Mr. Clooney. By opening up the possibility of new ways of regarding the experience of voice hearing outside of the medical model we are creating more accepting and hopeful ways of considering so called psychotic experiences as meaningful and resolvable.

By involving users and carers creatively in the decision-making process in terms of policy, legislation, healthcare system and evaluation, we can bring about a more sensitive and humane approach to mental health in the western world. I believe that the lessons learnt over the last thirty years by the Hearing Voices Movement have much relevance to mental health services across the world. Furthermore, ensuring that the experience of people with lived experience is at the centre of thought and action in the recovery process is crucial to the successful development of emancipatory and effective mental healthcare systems.

I may be right in terms of what I think. I may be wrong. Miguel Unamuno, the 20th century Spanish philosopher said that a religion that does not doubt itself is not a religion. Similarly, a man who does not doubt himself is not a man. A woman who does not doubt herself is not a woman.

I am recovered, a traumatised good.

A principle lesson from my experience is the importance of encouraging voice hearers to talk and share experiences. The voices are not in themselves the problem, it is our relationship with our voices that can at times be overwhelming.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

Waldo Williams, possibly the greatest Welsh-language poet of the 20th century. He is from my home county of Pembrokeshire. I shall read the first verse of a poem he wrote about voice hearing:

Cân imi wynt: Sing to Me Wind

Cân imi, wynt, o´r dyfnder ac o’r dechrau,
Cân imi, y dychymyg mwyaf maes,
Harddach na golau haul dy gerddi tywyll,
Y bardd tu hwnt i’n gaeaf ym mhob oes.

Sing to me, wind, and from the deeps, from the beginning.
Sing imagination, greatest of all,
Your dark songs lovelier than sunlight,
Poet, in every age, beyond what we know.

(p. 172 – p. 173: The Peace Makers: Waldo Williams; translated by Tony Conran, published by Gomer, 1997)

In conclusion, people have been hearing a voice or voices and seeing visions for thousands of years. Voice hearers have a contribution to make to society. I look forward to the day when to hear voices is no longer regarded as a symptom or a problem but embraced as part of what it is to be a human being.

 

Thank you for listening.

 

Hywel Davies

 

Communities of inclusion grew up, where there was a coming together because ‘people with disabilities are not seeking power over you, they are seeking friendship’. Thought For The Day, Radio 4, Francis Campbell, 24/07/17

Frances Campbell on Thought for the Day, BBC Radio 4, 24th July 2017

“The publication of the BBC’s top salaries last week has spurred a wide ranging debate about pay and inequality within society. The BBC is not alone, universities too and many other employers – public and private – have been found wanting. And it is not just about equal pay, but a debate too about the levels of pay for particular jobs, including exchanges on this programme about the pay of Vice Chancellors.

Such debates are ultimately about worth, in this case, professional worth in the workplace, which is often reduced in our era by how much a person earns or does not earn. Contemporary society, especially in the West often measures worth in terms of salary, assets, celebrity, status, position and so on. But that focus in itself reduces our understanding of human worth.

Recently I was invited to a premier of a film called ‘summer in the Forest’ which challenges that limited understanding. It tells the story of Jean Vanier, a Canadian Christian, who had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. His experiences of seeing such a lack of human love, especially towards the most vulnerable in society, those with learning disabilities who were confined to institutions or subjected to horrific experiments or sent to death camps, led him to found a network of communities and projects called L’Arche (in English The Ark). Today, that network stretches across 37 counties and includes 149 communities which provide a loving home for people with learning disabilities and those who help them.

Jean, through faith, actions and words, is someone who, over 50 years ago challenged one part of humanity (the vast majority) to view another part of humanity through an entirely different prism and as a result, he transformed the lives of thousands of people, not only those with learning disabilities but also those who encountered them in friendship and community. Communities of inclusion grew up, where in his words there was a coming together because ‘people with disabilities are not seeking power over you, they are seeking friendship’.

Richard, a young member of the L’Arche community here in London told me that he’d found a home where everyone is treated equally. Everyone has their gift. He said, when a person first comes to the community, their eyes might be closed because of what they have experienced elsewhere, but soon their eyes are opened by the joy they meet’. He said, ‘No one is lonely in L’Arche.’

Richard’s positive human experience is possible because one brave human being challenged the rest of humanity to overcome its fear of difference; to open their eyes and see beyond first impressions and view human worth in its full richness.”

Photographs from the International Mental Health Congress, Cardiff, Wales 2017

Hearing voices Cymru Banner displayed at the All Nations Conference Centre for the Congress

 

 

Reflective Panel discusses points raised by Hywel Davies’s speech

Hywel Davies giving his keynote presentation to the Congress

Paul Baker and Hywel Davies during Hywel’s keynote presentation

Hywel Davies waiting to give his speech at the International Mental Health Congress

International Mental Health Congress, Wales, 2017 hosted by 1000 Lives and IMHCN

Hearing Voices Network Cymru Banner displayed at the Congress

Hearing Voices is a common human experience banner at the Congress

Norhameza Ahmad Badruddin, Clinical Psychologist, Permai Hospital, Johor Bahru, Malaysia discusses how her hospital have ended the use of restraint and isolation

Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport opens the Congress

Thoughts from the Reflective Panel

John Jenkins, CEO of IMHCN introduces the themes for the day

Living with Voices: Refelctive Panel discussed the speech (2)

Les Rudd, Public Health Wales and John Jenkins, CEO, IMHCN

HVN Cymru signs open Letter endorsing the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Open Letter endorsing the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

To whom it may concern,

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

We, a wide variety of organisations and individuals representing people with personal experience of mental health services, professionals and academics, welcome and endorse in the strongest possible terms the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Mr. Dainius Pūras, on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

See the report here.

This ground-breaking report is the second important commentary on mental health that has come out of the UN human rights system this year. This challenging report highlights that mental health has been a forgotten issue for far too long, leaving far too many people to suffer human rights abuses within mental health services. This most recent report goes further than the earlier report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by calling out the ‘global burden of obstacles’ which are preventing our mental health systems from adopting a human rights-based approach which would guarantee the right to mental health for all.

We agree with the Special Rapporteur that these obstacles include power asymmetries, the prevalence of the biomedical model and biased use of evidence within the mental health system. We therefore also welcome the Special Rapporteur’s call for a shift in paradigm away from isolating mental health services which are coercive and medicalised, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to one that is recovery and community-based, promotes social inclusion and offers a range of rights-based treatments and psychosocial support at primary and specialized care levels. He also recognises the human rights imperative to invest in prevention and promotion. We endorse the Special Rapporteur’s further comments that: “…a reductive neurobiological paradigm causes more harm than good, undermines the right to health, and must be abandoned…. There is a need of a shift in investments in mental health, from focusing on “chemical imbalances” to focusing on “power imbalances and inequalities.”

We are living in a world of astounding – and very welcome – scientific and professional developments, which give great hope in our joint struggles to improve the health and wellbeing of all citizens. But it is also important to recognise that health is also a matter of social justice. Inequalities, poverty and abuse all impact on our physical and mental health, and the solutions are political and social as well as technical. The report rightly identifies a variety of effective practices and alternatives which situate mental health within a human rights and recovery-based paradigm and we agree that these must be scaled up and invested in.

Therefore we particularly welcome the Special Rapporteur’s recognition of the fact that mental health problems are; “… strongly linked to early childhood adversities, including toxic stress and sexual, physical and emotional child abuse, as well as to inequalities and violence, including gender based inequalities and gender based violence, and many other adverse conditions which people, especially those in vulnerable situations such as poverty or social exclusion, face when their basic needs are not met and their rights are not protected.”

We welcome these positive messages for a global approach to health and psychological wellbeing which ensures the participation of diversity of rights-holders and relevant stakeholders including users and survivors, civil society and communities and empowers them. We agree with the Special Rapporteur that we need to focus on the primary prevention of suffering and ill-health, as well as the care and recovery of people who experience ill-health or distress. We therefore look forward to a future where we work together to provide a coherent, scientific, but humane and psychological vision; where we offer care rather than coercion, fight for social justice, equity and fundamental human rights, and to establish the social prerequisites for genuine mental health and wellbeing.

Yours sincerely

Mental Health Europe – Santé Mentale Europe

British Psychological Society

Living With Voices: Presentation by Hywel Davies to the International Mental Health Congress, 18th – 19th July 2017

Living with Voices
Presentation to the International Mental Health Congress
18th & 19th July 2017, All Nations Centre, Cardiff
by Hywel Davies


Croeso.

Welcome.

Prynhawn da.

Good afternoon.

Could I ask the meeting to be upstanding to observe one minute’s silence on behalf of all the people in the world diagnosed by psychiatry with schizophrenia who have committed suicide in the past hundred and ten years or so.


It’s nice to see you.

To see you nice.

If I had known that there was going to be so many people at the conference today, I would have worn my wig.
However I didn’t and I haven’t.
You’ll have to accept me as I am.
I am a voice hearer, a retired lecturer of Spanish, a poet and a benefactor.

Born on August 3rd 1954 in St Thomas’s Hospital in Haverfordwest. I was a breach baby and it was a long and difficult birth. The trauma of the birth may have affected my brain and my consequent development.

I was raised at Upper Robeston Farm in Robeston West near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, the only son of Mr. Hugh Davies and Mrs. Henrietta Davies (nee Howell). Educated initially in Milford Haven, at North Road Primary School and then in Gloucestershire at a boarding school called Wycliffe College. I obtained a Combined Honours Degree in French and Spanish at Birmingham University in 1977, then a Postgraduate Certificate in Education at Aberystwyth University in 1978.

I have heard voices since about the age of 11. I heard them for the first time at Wycliffe College. There was a nice voice that helped me cope with the fears I had of being in a boarding school and being away from home. The first time I heard a voice was after being told by a boy that he was being bullied. The voice I heard told me to tell the boy to “take no notice”. I duly told the boy to take no notice of the bullying. I continued to hear voices and experienced them as generally helpful throughout my school life until the age of I8.
My life in school was generally happy, productive and successful, occasionally affected by trauma.

 

During my University days I became religious and regularly attended a Welsh speaking chapel.

I enjoyed some of the courses followed at University and the social life. However I kept a little bit of myself to myself at University. I was active in education as a teacher and lecturer in Wales, England and Spain again as a consequence of hearing voices.

Teaching was a vocation (a calling) as at this time I considered myself to be Jesus (and I still do). I heard a voice say “O come unto me little children” and the voice told me that I was a teacher. Some years later I taught Spanish with humour, grace and success to over 350 adults in Milford Haven and Haverfordwest between 1987 and 1996. I am now retired.

Voice hearing is the hearing of a voice or voices inaudible to others. It is not necessarily a sign of a severe mental “illness”. Triggered by bereavement, physical illness, unemployment, divorce and/or some other traumatic event, voice hearing is experienced by 10 – 15% of the population in their life time. 5 – 7% of the population hear a voice or voices at any one given moment in time. 1% of the world population are labelled by psychiatry as “schizophrenic”. 53% of people who are labelled by psychiatry as “schizophrenic”, are voice hearers.

In terms of my mental health milestones, I had a nervous breakdown in May 1983, and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Carmarthen, where I stayed as a patient for three months. At the time I was labelled by psychiatry with the diagnosis of “schizophrenia”. For me this was the beginning of a journey of change, discovery and transformation.

Even though I was diagnosed as having “schizophrenia”, I was never told this, however my mother was.

Generally I had good psychiatric care. People were attentive and kind.

When I first entered the hospital I was in a single room, initially for two weeks. I lost my ability to speak and I was very frightened. I found the experience of being hospitalised frightening but I found fellowship amongst some of the patients and ancillary staff and my parents visited me in hospital.

In 1985 I was admitted for three months into the psychiatric unit of a general hospital in North Devon. Again I found fellowship amongst one or two of the other patients and staff. Colleagues from the school where I was teaching visited me in hospital.

In the community, on my return to Pembrokeshire, I had contact with a psychiatrist and a Community Psychiatric Nurse. They did not talk with me about my voices and visions.

My main treatment was medication and attendance at Bro Cerwyn Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire.

People and relationships with other people helped me to get direction, hope, and friendship.

 

My mother was a key person who helped me in my recovery. She bought me a book about “schizophrenia”. She encouraged me to think about my experience of “mental illness” in different ways. She encouraged me to see a counsellor who dealt in astrology. My mother also encouraged me to attend my first meeting of Pembrokeshire Mind, at the time, a fledgling mental health charity. She also encouraged me to attend the international hearing voices conference in Maastricht, Holland in 1996. She said that it would be like attending Sunday School.

There are many key individuals, colleagues, relatives and friends who have helped me as an educator and mental health activist. To name a few:

Keith Miles, the Nurse in charge of Bro Cerwyn Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordswest and Richard Robson, the Mind Project Officer in Dyfed, encouraged me to be involved in mental health voluntary work. And I did so.

Sally Clough, an art therapist, humanised and sensitised me and encouraged my love again, of music and film.

David Morgan, a United Reform Church minister gave me Christian love and leadership and David, as Chair of Pembrokeshire Mind, played an important part in my recovery. At this time I helped Pembrokeshire Mind as secretary, vice Chair and Chair.

Guy Norman a worker with West Wales Action for Mental Health was one of the people I reported back to on my return to Wales from the international hearing voices conference in Maastricht, Holland in 1996. Guy ran with the approach of the hearing voices movement and a hearing voices group was established in Pembrokeshire, one of the first in Wales.

Another individual who was and remains a key part of my recovery journey is John Stacey , he is a colleague, friend and confidant with whom I work closely in the hearing voices movement in Wales and elsewhere.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank Ron Coleman. He helped me through his lived experience and he showed that it is possible to get ones life back.

Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, founders of the Hearing Voices movement and editors of the pioneering books “Accepting Voices” and “Living with Voices: 50 Stories of Recovery” were and are key leaders in my recovery. They looked beyond the illness model and created a new reality for voice hearers, one in which voice hearers recovered.

 

 

 

 

It is my firm belief that voice hearers have a contribution to make to society. Or they have the potential to make a contribution to society. According to David Horrobin in his book “The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity”, people have been hearing a voice or voices since 100,000 BC. According to Julian James in his book “The Origin Of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, people have been hearing voices since 15,000 BC. Voice hearers shift human consciousness.

Voice hearers from the past and present include the Prophet Ezekiel, the Prophet Isaiah, St Paul, Teresa of Avila, Zoe Wannamaker and Sir Anthony Hopkins. The cave paintings of early man in the South of France and Northern Spain were, according to David Horrobin in the aforementioned book, inspired by voice hearers.

Voice hearers are, in my assessment, saints, prophets, shaman, gurus and/or geniuses. Or the potential for such. As writers, poets, dancers, actors, artists, musicians, composers, singer-songwriters, believers and/or scientists, voice hearers have been or have been people of worth. Or the potential for such.

For myself, I write poetry and this is an important and healing part of my life.

I take ownership of my experience and feel content. I am proud to be a voice hearer. I believe that I have lived before as Judas Iscariot, a Cathar, a 13th century French “heretic” and James I of England/ James VI of Scotland. I believe that I am Jesus.

I was labelled by psychiatry in a certain way in 1983. However, I think that reincarnation, astrology, spirituality, and complementary therapies can help society in the 21″ century.

I make choices and take responsibility for my own actions. I have been a mental health activist since May 1987. I knew what it was like to suffer and I wanted to make the world a better place. I am a philanthropist and I support a wide range of charitable causes. For instance, l help children with clefts in poor countries of the world (SmileTrain UK) and Christians globally. This has also been a productive and healing part of my life.

I am patron of INTERVOICE (the international network for training education and research into hearing voices). It is a UK registered charity and limited company that is the organising body for the International hearing voices movement.

 

In support of their work I funded the establishment of the INTERVOICE website and the Hearing Voices Network Cymru website. In 2011 I set up the Hearing Voices Information Resource Pack Fund, this provides financial support for the distribution of the Hearing Voices Information Packs, consisting of books, CD’s and DVD’s about hearing voices from a variety of perspectives. The Resource Packs are distributed globally, to date more than five hundred and eighty Resource Packs have been distributed to five hundred and forty five successful applicants from fifty four countries across the world.

More than thirty years ago in the Western World one would have been locked up in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric unit, for a considerable number of years for admitting that one heard a voice or voices. Today that is not the case. The hearing voices movement is an idea whose time has arrived. In the words of Victor Hugo (the 19th century French writer): “There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come”.

The World Hearing Voices Congress was successfully held in Cardiff, in 2012. The Congress attracted important enthusiastic pioneers from all over the world. It was with pride that I, as Chairman of Hearing Voices Network Cymru presided over a public meeting at which Professor Sir Robin Murray spoke bravely and eloquently about his change of attitude towards the concept of “schizophrenia” after a distinguished professional lifetime in British psychiatry. For Murray, “schizophrenia” is not now a bio-chemical imbalance of the brain. He now regards it as a social construct and believes that new ways of supporting people with unusual and extreme experiences, such as those developed by the hearing voices movement, need to be utilised by mental health services.

Spirituality has emerged as a key issue in the hearing voices movement over the years and by occasionally liaising with Dr. Simon McCarthy-Jones, an academic writer , lecturer and activist in the hearing voices movement, Simon has become possibly more aware of spirituality from a variety of perspectives. In the Koran it is stated that “suffering purifies the spirit”. George Clooney, the American actor, once said that:

“Religion is for those who do not wish to go to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there”.

I have no reason to doubt Mr. Clooney. By opening up the possibility of new ways of regarding the experience of voice hearing outside of the medical model we are creating more accepting and hopeful ways of considering so called psychotic experiences as meaningful and resolvable.

By involving users and carers creatively in the decision-making process in terms of policy, legislation, healthcare system and evaluation, we can bring about a more sensitive and humane approach to mental health in the western world. I believe that the lessons learnt over the last thirty years by the Hearing Voices Movement have much relevance to mental health services across the world. Furthermore, ensuring that the experience of people with lived experience is at the centre of thought and action in the recovery process is crucial to the successful development of emancipatory and effective mental healthcare systems.

I may be right in terms of what I think. I may be wrong. Miguel Unamuno, the 20th century Spanish philosopher said that a religion that does not doubt itself is not a religion. Similarly, a man who does not doubt himself is not a man. A woman who does not doubt herself is not a woman.

I am recovered, a traumatised good.

A principle lesson from my experience is the importance of encouraging voice hearers to talk and share experiences. The voices are not in themselves the problem, it is our relationship with our voices that can at times be overwhelming.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

Waldo Williams, possibly the greatest Welsh-language poet of the 20th century. He is from my home county of Pembrokeshire. I shall read the first verse of a poem he wrote about voice hearing:

Cân imi wynt: Sing to Me Wind

Cân imi, wynt, o´r dyfnder ac o’r dechrau,
Cân imi, y dychymyg mwyaf maes,
Harddach na golau haul dy gerddi tywyll,
Y bardd tu hwnt i’n gaeaf ym mhob oes.

Sing to me, wind, and from the deeps, from the beginning.
Sing imagination, greatest of all,
Your dark songs lovelier than sunlight,
Poet, in every age, beyond what we know.

(p. 172 – p. 173: The Peace Makers: Waldo Williams; translated by Tony Conran, published by Gomer, 1997)

In conclusion, people have been hearing a voice or voices and seeing visions for thousands of years. Voice hearers have a contribution to make to society. I look forward to the day when to hear voices is no longer regarded as a symptom or a problem but embraced as part of what it is to be a human being.

Thank you for listening.


Hywel Davies, Chair of Hearing Voices Network Cymru (Wales)

 

Hearing Voices in the USA

“…. when a model skews so strongly toward all-or-nothing thinking (hey, isn’t that a ‘symptom’ in some camps?), suggestion of nuance or difference is basically the same as complete denial. To the most devout among us, it can amount to blasphemy worthy of diagnosis all on its own.

Yet that’s where the Hearing Voices Movement lives — in that not so black and white space. This is a movement that represents an alliance between individuals who hear voices, see visions, or have other unusual (or extraordinary) experiences, family, friends and providers. Its origins lead back to the collaborative efforts of a psychiatrist (Marius Romme), a professor (Sandra Escher), and a voice hearer (Patsy Hage). Some of its most fundamental beliefs include:

  • No assumption of illness (but no prohibition against an individual believing that for themselves)
  • Freedom to interpret one’s own experiences in any way (including or excluding the medical model)
  • Acceptance that voices are real (but without defining in any unilateral sort of way what might be causing those very real experiences)
  • Acceptance that the goal doesn’t have to be to get rid of the voices (but that it can be if an individual decides that’s what’s most desirable)
  • Understanding that voice hearing doesn’t have to be a bad or negative experience (even if it is for certain people some or all of the time)

There’s a basic acceptance that people hear voices for all sorts of different reasons.”

To read the full article go here.

Source: Mad in America (USA), 13th July 2017

 

Do patients who hear voices have the right to refuse psychiatric medicine? A growing movement says yes

The voices came often: three men, mocking her. Telling her she was stupid. Urging her to kill herself.

Psychiatrists diagnosed her with schizophrenia.

But Rachel Waddingham now rejects that diagnosis.

After more than a decade of taking medications and cycling in and out of mental hospitals, Waddingham has embraced a new way of thinking about her voices. She no longer tries to banish them with drugs, but accepts them as a part of herself. She now considers them a reflection of her feelings and experiences, signals that help her understand when and why she feels overwhelmed — rather than authorities whose commands she should follow.

This approach underlies a controversial international movement that raises fundamental questions about what it means to be mentally ill. The question at the heart of the debate: Do patients who hear voices — and suffer other symptoms that psychiatrists would consider severe — have the right to direct their treatment, even if that means rejecting conventional therapies, such as psychiatric medication?

Source: Stat (USA), July 13th 2017

Read full article here.

 

PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors)

 
PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) is a leading provider of CPD training on trauma, dissociation, sexual abuse and attachment.
Since 2010, they have trained over 10,000 people, including professionals, supporters and survivors.
You can see there full calendar of events for 2017 here

Hywel Davies launches new website called Phone-call

 

Hywel Davies, supporter of innovative and empowering approaches to mental and emotional health,  has launched his own website.

You can visit the website here.

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