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



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.

‘ASYLUM: ACTION AND REACTION’ Conference, Manchester, 28 June 2017, 10.00am to 5.00pm

‘ASYLUM: ACTION AND REACTION’ conference will be held in Manchester on 28 June 2017, 10.00am to 5.00pm. Join us.

The updated programme for the day is here.

This will be a very special event, a day conference in Manchester to celebrate over thirty years of ASYLUM: International Magazine of Democratic Psychiatry. It will be held in the University of Manchester on Wednesday 28 June 2017. It will be an all-day low-cost conference, with a lower rate for subscribers to Asylum Magazine which will cover refreshments on the day. The theme of the day will be ‘Action and Reaction’, and we have in mind by that title a range of possible meanings, which include the kind of political action we need to build to defend our rights and build better services, and the struggle against reactionary attacks on mental health provision, and we have mind the kind of action that we collectively take and responses to what Asylum has been doing so far.

We have a full programme for the Asylum conference, but still welcome posters for the day which will be in the main foyer for the conference, and we welcome stalls and literature, please contact

The low registration charge for the conference will just cover the costs for the day. We are asking you to come to Manchester to be with us and many other activists, survivors and their allies. This will be a chance to take stock and discuss what we do next, and to share action about the many different kinds of networks you are involved in, to build those networks together.

Please let us know about any dietary requirements. The cost of registration will cover refreshments and lunches.

We have space in the University of Manchester booked for the event, and this means that we will limit numbers attending. Please register sooner rather than later to secure a place at the conference.

IN THE EVENING: 18.00- late: Asylum 30 years celebration – This event is free and open to everyone attending the conference

It is organised by Alex Dunedin of the Ragged University at Gullivers, 109 Oldham Street,Manchester, M4 1LW  (a large venue in the city centre with free food and drink and music)

Support us with a donation for the event at the crowd-funding link here!

Asylum website is at:

Facebook event page is at:

Tickets: (available to buy up until 27.06.17)

Ultimate Hearing Voices Training 3 Day Course, Sydney, Australia

Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th September 2017
‘Hearing Voices’ is a term used to represent the experience of what is also called ‘auditory hallucinations’, or hearing things that other people cannot. ‘Hearing Voices’ can also be related to the experiences of seeing visions, sensing things and beliefs that others may find unusual.

Many people hear voices and find them helpful, sacred or just a normal part of life. Some people find voices confusing or frightening and seek help to cope. These people are commonly diagnosed with schizophrenia or another mental illness.

During this 3 day workshop Voices Vic will be combining their 2 most successful courses to create 1 ultimate Hearing Voices training!

For more information go here

Historic Articles by Hywel Davies on humanity, spirituality and the challenge to 20th century traditional western psychiatry

In 1995 Hywel published an article in Asylum, The Magazine for Democratic Psychiatry entitled “What is Needed is a Revolution” and in 1997 he published an article for the mental health magazine Breakthrough entitled “In Time of Change”. Click on the titles to read the articles.

Community Screening CRAZYWISE, Brecon, Wales, 21st June 2017

What if a psychological crisis was seen as having  the potential to be a positive transformative experience, instead of a “broken brain”?

Come to Screening in Brecon, Wales, 21st June 2017


This true documentary follows the lives of two young people as they undergo a severe Mental Illness Crisis that changes and transforms their lives. Made by US Human Rights Photographer and Filmmaker Phil Borges and his colleague Kevin Tomlinson, explores alternative spiritual routes of healing, giving a fresh perspective to an age old issue in a modern world.

This is a must see’ for anyone with lived experience of Mental Health Crisis and their families and offers a fresh multidimensional perspective for all who work as Mental Health treatment and support providers from NHS; other statutory and voluntary bodies including Holistic Health providers.

The viewing will be followed by an ‘Open Space’ discussion in small safe groups with facilitators on hand.

This event raises awareness of Spiritual and Shamanic Perspectives to Mental Health


Wed 21 June 2017

09:30 – 16:00 BST

Add to Calendar







Register to attend here.

See poster for the Event schedule here

For further information contact Avril at

Tel: 01874 711677

International Mental Health Congress, Cardiff, 18 – 19 July 2017

International Mental Health Congress

 18 & 19 July 2017 | All Nations Centre, Cardiff

Join us for two inspiring days at our International Mental Health Congress. Partnering with the IMHCN we have designed an agenda which explores the ‘whole person, whole life, whole systems’ approach to mental health. This will be a significant event bringing together experts on the Whole Life-Whole Systems approach from Wales, England and the international community. We have representatives joining us from Australia, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Ireland and Malaysia. There will be many opportunities to take part in plenary sessions, participatory masterclasses and network with professionals.

As always, our events are free to attend.  For additional information or booking assistance, please contact or call 02920 104 376.

 We have an exciting two day event programme planned for you.

 Keynote speakers include:

  • Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
  • Roberto Mezzina, Director, MH Department/ WHOCC of Trieste, Italy
  • Michael Holland, Medical Director, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
  • Norhameza Ahmad Badruddin, Clinical Psychologist, Permai Hospital, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

A Wake for Blake: A special evening to raise money for a memorial for William Blake.

A very special evening to raise money for a memorial for the poet and artist William Blake.

Blake claimed to experience visions throughout his life. They were often associated with beautiful religious themes and imagery, and therefore may have inspired him further with spiritual works and pursuits. Certainly, religious concepts and imagery figure centrally in Blake’s works. God and Christianity constituted the intellectual centre of his writings, from which he drew inspiration. In addition, Blake believed that he was personally instructed and encouraged by Archangels to create his artistic works, which he claimed were actively read and enjoyed by those same Archangels.

Read more about Blake here.

Monday 25th September 2017 at 7.30pm
Leicester Square Theatre, London



– More To Be Announced –

The exact location of Blake’s resting place was only re-discovered in recent years after detailed research by two committee members of the Blake Society, Carol and Luis Garrido.  This event, featuring some of the UK’s most thrilling maverick performers, is to raise funds towards a fitting marker to identify Blake’s grave in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground.


To be assured of tickets, book within this exclusive booking period  from 10am Wednesday 31st May until 10am Friday June 2nd.

Book online at :
or by calling 0207 734 2222
or in person at the box office


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

9th World Hearing Voices Congress 2017: Book your place at the Congress

August 16-18, 2017

Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

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More infomation here.

Hearing Voices Network Cymru Newsletter

The latest edition of the is available. In this edition you will find information about:

  • Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor from Working To Recovery are running a number of one-day workshops across the UK including Bangor, Swansea and Cardiff. 10 free places on each day for voice hearers sponsored by HVN Cymru
  • “Can’t You Hear Them?” A new book by Simon McCarthy-Jones about hearing voices and science
  • The BBC Horizon programme “Why Did I Go Mad?” featuring members of the Hearing Voices Movement
  • Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group commissions radio advertisement
  • The forthcoming 2017 World Hearing Voices Congress to be held in August in Boston
  • The Recovery Summer Camp
  • New Film Documentaries: Why Did I Go Mad?, CrazyWise and Healing Voices

You can read our newsletter here.

Do you hear voices?: 30-second advertisement broadcast on Radio Pembrokeshire

The Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group has recently placed the following 30-second advertisement to be broadcast from time to time on Radio Pembrokeshire in South-West Wales from Friday, March 17th for several months.

“Do you hear voices?

Voices from inside your head or from outside your head that others cannot hear?

You are not alone.

Hearing voices is a common human experience.

You are not crazy. But the experience may be upsetting and frightening. If it is, you are welcome to join us.

We are the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group.

A friendly space where you can share your experience with other people who hear voices.

We meet monthly in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Would you join us?

For more information contact John on 07968 238 218 or visit our website”

You can listen to our advertisement here:

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