‘We shall not cease from exploration and at the end of exploring,
we shall arrive where we started and know that place for the first time’
T S Elliott, Poet
‘Daw dydd y bydd mawr y rhai bychain,
Daw dydd ni bydd mwy y rhai mawr,
Daw’r bore ni wêl ond brawdoliaeth
Yn casglu teuluoedd y llawr.’
‘Plentyn y Ddaear’ Waldo Williams
‘There shall come a day when small shall be mighty
And the mighty shall fall,
There will come a day when one shall see only brotherhood
Gathering together the families of the world.’
“Child of the Earth’ – Waldo Waldo
Letter to Thomas Szasz MD, Academic and Writer 11 February, 1989
Wales MIND Conference 1992: Welcome Speech – Commodore Hotel, Llandrindod Wells
PEMBROKESHIRE MIND SIR BENFRO presents A PUBLIC TALK by PETER SWALES ‘Freud’s Last Patient, Marilyn Munroe: Her Tragic Odyssey from Couch to Couch’ at Withybush Conference Centre, Fishguard Road, Haverfordwest on Wednesday, 29th September, 1993. Introduction to Peter J Swales Talk.
LAUNCH OF PEMBROKESHIRE MIND BEFRIENDING PROJECT 20th October, 1993. Picton Centre, Haverfordwest. Introduction to MIND (National Association of Mental Health)
WHAT IS NEEDED IS A REVOLUTION by Hywel Davies. Reproduced by kind permission of Asylum, where it originally appeared in Summer, 1995
Sunday Times: 25th February, 1996 Book Section
PEMBROKESHIRE MIND SIR BENFRO NEWSLETTER (SPRING 1996) First International Hearing Voices Conference
WELCOME SPEECH ‘Hearing Voices: A Rumour of Madness’ by Ron Coleman (4th March, 1996)
LETTER Sunday Times: 23rd June, 1996 Book Section
PEMBROKESHIRE MIND SIR BENFRO BROCHURE (SPRING 1996) Hearing Voices
IN TIME OF CHANGE by Hywel Davies
Reproduced by kind permission of Breakthrough, where it originally appeared in April / May, 1997
BASIS OF TALK GIVEN TO ABERYSTWYTH HEARING VOICES GROUP LAUNCH 26 OCTOBER 1998
TALK GIVEN AT LAUNCH OF ABERYSTWYTH HEARING VOICES GROUP
26 October 1998
QUOTES FROM ‘CREATING ACCEPTING COMMUNITIES’; Report of the Mind Inquiry into Social Exclusion and Mental Health Problems, MIND 1999
WELCOME SPEECH MENTAL HEALTH FAIR (Dyfed / Powys Mental Health Link) held at a pavilion in the Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd. 4th October, 1999
SACRED SPACE, VOL. 2, ISSUE 4, 2001 (International Journal of Spirituality and Health)
HEARING VOICES PAST AND PRESENT: A USER’S PERSPECTIVE‘Psychosocial Interventions for People with Schizophrenia’.Ed. Neil Harris, Steve Williamsand Tim Bradshaw, Polygrave MacMillan. 2002
HEALING SCHIZOPHRENIA: USING MEDICATION WISELY John Watkins, Michelle Anderson Publishing (Melbourne / London), 2006
We produce the booklet “Reconstructing Beneficence : Mental Health and Progress (1989 – 2008)” on the Hearing Voices Network Cymru website because the booklet is, in our opinion, an historical and pioneering document. The booklet, like the traumatized – as – children – or – adolescents, adult faces statues from Easter Island on the cover of the booklet itself, may be regarded within the next 100 years or so in the New Age of Aquarius as a work of spiritual, ideally Christian (in its purest sense) significance and intellectual grandiose beauty.
Chairman : Hearing Voices Network Cymru
Born in Haverfordwest in 1954, Hywel Davies is a retired Lecturer of Spanish. A graduate of Birmingham University and Postgraduate of Aberystwyth University, Mr Davies published a book of poetry ‘Syllables For Change’ in 2004. He is a founder member of Pembrokeshire Mind Sir Benfro, Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group and Hearing Voices Network Cymru. Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group has issued ‘Hearing Voices: An Information Pack’, ‘Mental Health Factfile’ and ‘Hearing and Belonging: The Newsletter Pack 2000’.
‘Reconstructing Beneficence: Mental Health And Progress’ (1989 – 2008) is a selection of speeches, letters and articles presented and written by Hywel Davies between 1989 and 2008.
Mental health includes emotional health. Mental illness may involve agoraphobia, claustrophobia, stress, self-harm, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, a nervous breakdown, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, post traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar disorder (manic depression), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder), compulsive hoarding and/or schizophrenia.
Progress in the context of mental health may involve, I believe, seeing people who have had or have mental health problems as saints, prophets, shamen, gurus and / or geniuses. Or the potential for such.
One in three people in Pembrokeshire has a mental health problem in their lifetime and according to the UK charity Sane (Schizophrenia : A National Emergency), mental illness will be the principal health problem on the planet by the year 2020. Therefore in the next fifteen years or so, the implications of this publication will grow, I believe, in Pembrokeshire and elsewhere.
A significant Welsh MP once stated in about 1999 that Cymru is a nation with a ‘fractured psyche’. I agree with that assessment. Therefore I dedicate this publication to anyone who has had, or has a mental health problem. Funds that would have been raised by the sale of this publication will benefit Pembrokeshire Mind Sir Benfro, a mental health charity.
Hywel Davies January 2008
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Dear Dr. Szasz,
I saw your performance on The Late Show with Clive James which was broadcast in Great Britain at 11.15 pm on Friday, February 10th, 1989. You participated in a discussion with Dr. Anthony Clare, Professor Ian Kennedy as well as Clive James. I was disgusted and angered by your notion that mental illness does not exist and that „schizophrenia does not exist any more than modern ghosts‟. Furthermore, you insisted that „schizophrenics do not suffer – they brag‟. They are according to you brought into police stations and they boast „I am Jesus Christ‟. This is a preposterous series of statements. And each statement is worthy of the utmost contempt.
As an academic, you are guilty of transforming what is, I am convinced, the exception and masquerading it on British television as the rule. As a psychiatrist, you are guilty of misunderstanding the emotional turmoil of the 240 million individuals on this planet whose lives and careers are, at worst, ruined and at best, crippled by an illness classified by the vast majority of your profession as schizophrenia.
I was diagnosed as a schizophrenic in 1983 and for an individual such as yourself with 50 years experience in psychiatry to suggest that a schizophrenic does not suffer is a dangerous falsehood. At the height of illness a schizophrenic is a victim of circumstances beyond his or her control. In this context, how on earth can an individual who is a prisoner of erratic thought patterns, extraordinary delusions and deranged obsessions be morally responsible for his actions? How, on earth, can an individual bombarded with voices, tormented by what he sees and hears on television and by what he hears on the radio – how can such a person be perceptive enough to realize that he should voluntarily seek psychiatric treatment when at the height of his madness, he is unable to differentiate between reality and illusion?
You see yourself as being interested in good and evil. So am I. However, you fail to understand that schizophrenia itself entails a vicious struggle between good and evil within the mind of the sufferer. It involves humiliation, fear, pain, anger, guilt and fleeting glimpses of joy. It involves an intense kaleidoscope of feelings and thoughts which brings suffering to the sufferer and distress to his loved ones. To state otherwise is an unforgivable and cruel error of judgment.
You seem to think that psychiatric treatment is a word game which gives pleasure to both the psychiatrist and the consumer. In fact, you seem to think that talking about psychiatry and behavioural problems is an intellectual game in which clever clichés are more important than articulate opinions and ideas based on experience, reason and common sense. I shall give 3 examples from the programme.
Firstly, you insisted that a mother suffering from post-natal depression who wishes to kill her new-born baby is practicing „post-natal birth control‟. It is a clever phrase but it is self-evidently removed from the truth (as Professor Ian Kennedy implied) when one realizes that the mother herself may also want to take her own life as well. Secondly, you laughingly dismiss anorexia as a form of „self-starvation‟. This gesture of mirth on your part was totally reprehensible and it convinced me that you are more interested in the intellectual world than in the human world. You are more interested in the clever cliché than in the suffering of others. Thirdly, you stated in the programme that psychiatric treatment should only be allowed between „two consenting adults‟. It was as if psychiatric treatment was a quasi-sexual encounter that gave pleasure to both participants. The key phrase is again a clever juxtaposition of words but what is the purpose of the phrase if it only serves to mask the truth, not reveal the truth? Intellectualism is not a form of self-gratification; it involves the relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. You should know that by now.
In conclusion, you showed yourself on British television last night to be a largely misguided psychiatrist and an extremely cold-hearted academic. You displayed a callous attitude towards the sufferers of mental illness and you have a distorted vision of the world of psychiatry. You have a distorted vision of western society; not everybody is „middle-class‟. You seem to think that all sufferers lie and deceive to get psychiatric treatment and so try to avoid their „moral responsibilities‟. Certain people may try to do so; but they are not sufferers. Similarly, certain psychiatrists may be at times medically irresponsible in their assessment and treatment of individuals. To imply that the majority of sufferers of mental illness lie and deceive in order to get medical treatment and so avoid the consequences of their actions is either a lie or an act of gross misjudgement on your part. I hope that, for your sake, it is the latter.
I await your reply to my comments with interest. That is if you see yourself as being „morally responsible‟ to elaborate on, possibly defend, in private what you say and do in public.
As a schizophrenic who is neither a criminal nor has a criminal record.
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Wales MIND Conference 1992
Welcome Speech – Commodore Hotel, Llandrindod Wells
Croeso. Diolch yn fawr am ddod yma heddiw. Mae heddiw yn diwrnod hapus ac hanesyddol. Rydw i‟n hapus ac yn falch i fod yma heddiw.
Today is a proud day. As a consumer of mental health services in Pembrokeshire since 1987, I am particularly happy and proud to stand here before you this morning. In 1983 I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Carmarthen for three months. In 1985 and 1986 I was admitted again for three months into a psychiatric ward in Barnstaple in north Devon. On both occasions I had a nervous breakdown. But I’m still here. Through my involvement with Pembrokeshire MIND since 1987, through my involvement with the Wales MIND Council, through my involvement with the Wales MIND Executive Committee, I am glad to say that a breakdown does not have to mean the end of a life. It can mean the beginning of something more. And this weekend is the proud and happy beginning of something more. And I am proud to be a part of it.
Mae ‘na gân hyfryd o’r enw „Ni yma o hyd‟. Fel ‘dach chi’n gwybod, rwy’n siwr, mae Dafydd Iwan yn canu’r gân ‘ma. Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, ni yma o hyd. Mae’r gan yn disgrifio cyflwr y Cymry Cymraeg yn yr ugeinfed canrif. Ond hefyd, mewn ffordd, mae’r gân yn disgrifio cyflwr y pobl yn y canrif ‘ma sydd wedi diodde gyda problemau meddwl. Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, ni yma o hyd. Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, ni yma o hyd.
There’s a Welsh song which Dafydd Iwan sings. It’s called „Ni yma o hyd‟. We’re still here. It describes the condition of those people who speak Welsh as a first language in the late 20th century. The song goes „Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, ni yma o hyd‟. In spite of everybody and in spite of everything, we.’re still here. Ni yma o hyd. And we’re proud to be here. And we’re proud to be here on this important day.
Yet in our pride and in our joy, let us remember the special kind of people for whom we are here. We may be one of them. We’re here to represent people with mental health problems. On this historic great day, let us remember such a person as Stefan Kiszko. As you know, Stefan was unjustly imprisoned for the sexual abuse and murder of schoolgirl Lesley Molseed in 1975. Stefan was the victim of police malpractice, a wanting legal system and the violence of his fellow prisoners. In short, Stefan was the victim of circumstances beyond his control. And only two weeks ago was Stefan Kiszko released from imprisonment. Stefan is now receiving treatment for
„schizop6hrenia‟ – a condition which he developed whilst in prison. Poor big Stefan was in my humble opinion the victim of personal circumstances
beyond his control. And that is an accurate description of all of the I in 5 people in the world who have suffered, are suffering or will suffer with a mental health problem in this frail big small world. Yes, in our pride and joy today, let us remember those special I in 5 who are the victims of personal, social and/or economic circumstances beyond their immediate control.
I am honoured and delighted that many of you have travelled from all over Wales and the United Kingdom to be here today. Somebody once said MIND is a family. And it is. Welcome to the family. Your coming here from long distances impresses me much. Let us all make sure that your faith be rewarded this weekend. I am delighted that the MP’s will be here later today. They include Dafydd Wigley, Richard Livesey and Ian Grist. There may be cynics here as I speak who believe that the MP’s are here because of the April 9th general election. But I am not a cynic. And with right on our side, I urge you not to be cynics today. For today is too special for cynicism. It’s a day for heroes. In fact one of my heroes is on the political panel this afternoon. And maybe one of your heroes is on that same panel too. Maybe one of your heroes is in this room as I speak now. I know another one of mine is. Yes, this is a day of heroes. This is a glory day. This weekend is a momentous and significant weekend in the history of Wales MIND Cymru.
We are here with one purpose in mind. We are here because we believe the voluntary sector to be important and because we wish to make a system of mental health care in the community in its widest sense of which the world can be proud. We are here to create opportunities that will be remembered with affection for many years to come. We are here because we care.
And in our sense of caring, in our goodness and in our humility may we all strive to speak with the type of wisdom of which those special I in 5 would be proud. And in our goodness and in our humility, may we also strive to listen with the kind of sensitivity and perception of which those special I in 5 would be proud. And may we all have the sense of vision to know when to give and when to take. Circumstances demand that. For too many centuries “mental illness” has been the leprosy of modern thought. But times are changing. They are moving quickly. And these two days are glory days. They are the days of which dreams are made.
Welcome to the 1992 Wales MIND Cymru Conference: in Llandrindod Wells. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, however circumstances may find you, croeso. Welcome. And thank you to everybody who made this weekend possible. For we have dreams. Worthy dreams. Let’s make our dreams realities – realities of which we all can be proud. And be able to tell our
loved ones. Croeso i Landrindod. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Hywel Davies (February 1992)
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PEMBROKESHIRE MIND SIR BENFRO
A PUBLIC TALK by PETER SWALES
‘Freud’s Last Patient, Marilyn Munroe: Her Tragic Odyssey from Couch to Couch’ at Withybush Conference Centre,
Fishguard Road, Haverfordwest
on Wednesday, 29th September, 1993.
Introduction to Peter J Swales Talk.
Hello. Welcome. Good Evening. Croeso.
I regret that I am unable to be here in person to introduce our guest speaker this evening.
Peter Swales/our guest speaker, is a world authority on the life and work of Sigmund Freud. As many of us know already, Peter lectures widely at universities and hospitals both in the United States of America and Europe. He also writes. His cumulative contribution is such that in a recent profile in the New York Observer an eminent professor of psychiatry noted that our guest speaker has changed the face of Freud scholarship.
The fact that Peter is from Haverfordwest and is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joffre Swales from the Music Centre in High Street makes this gathering a special gathering. Peter attended Haverfordwest Grammar School and was once the manager of a band whose drummer was to become a member of the Blossom Toes. Peter then became a road manager with the Rolling Stones and is now/as we know, an historian of international repute on the history of psychoanalysis.
The fact that Peter ‘is addressing his third Pembrokeshire MIND meeting is much appreciated by all those connected with MIND in Pembrokeshire.
The subject of this evening‟s talk is, need it be said, a beautiful and extraordinary woman who charmed millions throughout the world. No, it’s not Hilda Ogden. It’s some-one more beautiful than that. It is some-one who continues to charm as the number of people here tonight testifies. Her story involves love and it involves tragedy and the pain of emotion. In the context of the subject matter of tonight’s talk and in the context of the ‘international influence of tonight’s speaker, this evening promises to be an extraordinary and mem8 orable occasion. I wish it well.
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LAUNCH OF PEMBROKESHIRE MIND BEFRIENDING PROJECT
20th October, 1993. Picton Centre, Haverfordwest.
Introduction to MIND (National Association of Mental Health)
MIND‟s headquarters are in Harley Street in London. 80 staff are based at the headquarters. Judi Clements is the present Director of MIND in England and Wales and Lord Ennals is the President of MIND.
MIND began in 1946 to protect the interests of those people who have had or have or will have mental health problems. Such problems may include depression, post-natal depression, schizophrenia, manic depression and/or a mental health breakdown. A mental health problem directly affects 1 in 4 of the population.
MIND exists in England and Wales only. There are about 250 Local MIND Associations (LMA‟s) in existence.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own associations of mental health.
MIND serves to protect the interests of people who have had or have mental health problems. In effect, it serves to protect the interests of individuals who may have such problems in the future.
The organisation is more likely to be wary of the medical model in analysing a mental health problem than the National Schizophrenia Fellowship (NSF) or SANE (Schizophrenia: A National Emergency). Medication can be useful; often it is. However it should not be the only approach in terms of treating a mental health problem.
MIND is significantly influenced by RD Laing; in particular his book „The Divided Self‟.
The specific agreed aims worded in the constitution of every Local MIND Association in England and Wales are twofold:
to promote mental health and assist relieving and rehabilitating persons from mental disorder or conditions of emotional or mental distress requiring advice or treatment.
to promote the study of and research into mental health and mental disorder and emotional or mental distress and to make records9 of and disseminate information concerning the same and to educate the public in matters relating to mental health.
Wales MIND Cymru
The headquarters of Wales MIND Cymru are at 23 St. Mary Street in Cardiff. There are 7 full-time and part-time staff.
The Director of Wales MIND Cymru is Andrew Pfluger. The Senior Development Officer is Dave Lowson. The Consumer Officer is Jane Cooke. Conference Organizer is Nicola Mawer. The Secretary is Tracey Sloman.
There are 25 Local MIND Associations (LMA’s) in Wales.
There are 4 Local MIND Associations (LMA’s) in Dyfed. They are Carmarthen, Llanelli, Aberystwyth and Pembrokeshire.
With the encouragement of the Dyfed MIND Project led by Richard Robson, Pembrokeshire MIND Sir Benfro was established in 1987. Out of the Dyfed MIND Project emerged the Dyfed Mental Health Project and the Dyfed Mental Health Project Co-ordinator, Jo Ible and 2 mental health workers, Guy Norman in Pembrokeshire and Jill Jones in Llanelli.
Pembrokeshire MIND is the largest mental health voluntary organisation in Pembrokeshire. The Executive Committee consists of 18 members. Its charity number is 703109.
The President of Pembrokeshire MIND is the Bishop of St. Davids. I am the Chair of Pembrokeshire MIND. The Vice-Chair is Richard Cowley, the Secretary is Val Jewsbury and The Treasurer is a former Chair of Pembrokeshire MIND, Reverend David Morgan.
Under the umbrella of Pembrokeshire MIND, many groups and group activities take place.
A Sunday Club has been in existence on every Sunday bar one since early 1988. It meets every Sunday between 2pm and 4pm in Haverfordwest. It meets at a time and on a day when community service provision is virtually non-existent. The Club provides companionship, fellowship and friendship – ideally all three.
Pembrokeshire MIND manages a home for 4 residents and it employs 2 part- time members of staff.
Pembrokeshire Women in MIND is a women’s group that deals with women’s
issues, specifically in the context of mental health. The Pembrokeshire Women 1i0n MIND support worker has been appointed and begins in post in
Pembrokeshire MIND has established “Cam Ymlaen” (Pembrokeshire MIND Therapeutic Work Scheme) that enables individuals to work part-time and receive payment on a therapeutic basis.
Pembrokeshire MIND arranges public events within the county that have an educational and/or social purpose. The most recent public event attracted more than 50 people to hear a world authority on Sigmund Freud speak about Marilyn Monroe.
As a result of fund-raising, donations and other income, Pembrokeshire MIND is in the fortunate position to provide from time to time groups with an interest in mental health with financial aid.
Pembrokeshire MIND campaigns as individual and as a group to protect the interests of those people with mental health problems and to have a
„humanizing‟ and „sensitizing‟ voice in the planning process within Pembrokeshire and in effect Dyfed. It’s influence goes, I suggest, beyond the immediate borders of Pembrokeshire and Dyfed.
The Pembrokeshire MIND office which ‘opened in March this year is staffed every week-day for’ at least 3, hours each day at 19a Bridge Street in Haverfordwest. The office which involves Pembrokeshire MIND volunteers, Pembrokeshire Women in MIND volunteers and those connected with the Pembrokeshire Volunteer Befriending Project. The office is a vital resource that serves essentially to provide information related to mental health matters to members of the general public.
The Pembrokeshire MIND Volunteer Befriending Project, led by Carol Castell, is a cornerstone of what Pembrokeshire MIND stands for in Pembrokeshire. It is an exciting and innovative project and it is what has brought us here today. It is tremendous to see so many interested in contributing to the Project as potential volunteers and as potential befrienders. Pembrokeshire MIND is fortunate in having some-one as able, sympathetic and committed as Carol to co-ordinate the project. The physical effect that Carol has able to generate through press releases, interviews and advertisements in The Western Telegraph is very encouraging.
In conclusion, what I have mentioned here this afternoon is a step towards a definition to what MIND is about in Pembrokeshire, in Wales and in England.
At it’s best, MIND enables consumers of mental health services to find a voice and to find a life. Local MIND Associations in England and Wales, and Pembrokeshire MIND is no exception, consists of consumers, mental health professionals and interested individuals who are committed to improving
systems and aspects of mental health provision in England, Wales and in
effect beyond. 11
The Pembrokeshire MIND Volunteer Befriending Project has a vital role to play in the local community since it offers companionship, fellowship and friendship to people with mental health problems who are living in the community.
Thank you for corning to the Picton Centre today and thank you for showing an interest in contributing in a positive way to improving the qualities of lives of people about whom we are concerned. In contributing, I hope that you may be rewarded and valued and have access to gifts that in humility you will one day treasure.
I wish the Volunteer Befriending Project well.
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Hywel argues in this article that what is needed in the world of mental health matters in Wales and England and, for that matter, beyond is a peaceful revolution! He explains what this means and what the obstacles are that need to be overcome.
How can people with mental health problems begin to be understood and accepted in society?
Between 1991 and 1995 many words have been said and written in the British media and press about mental health issues. The closure of Victorian mental health hospitals. the desire of people to see community care work with success and the plight of people with mental health problems have been placed firmly in the public domain. Furthermore, psychology is now the second most popular subject in British universities taking into account the number of students that study the subject. When we add to this the fact that a very large percentage of people with mental health problems are living placid and at times fruitful lives in the com•munity in the United Kingdom speaks vol•umes of the belief that good can triumph over evil. Even people as varied as Paul Merton, Spike Milligan, John Cleese and David Waddington, a former Tory Home Secretary, have admitted to having a mental health problem at some stage of their lives. These are all good signs. However there are also many negative indications that show there are many obstacles to overcome. Some of these I’ve illustrated below.
Changes to the social and political environment and their negative effect on mental health.
Firstly, mental health problems, in my view, have been compounded in Britain by what is called by some „the competitive culture‟. One of the consequences of such a culture is the effect that it can have on an individual’s sense of emotional well-being as part of the family or community. The existence or threat of poverty, unemployment, homelessness or material deprivation en•sure that a competitive culture based on selfishness and greed threatens the fabric of society itself. It has a malevolent effect on the mental health of millions. At best, the competitive culture creates stress; at worst, it creates violence. Either way, mental health is effected.
Secondly since the arrival of the age of „Enlightenment‟ in the mid 18th
century based in effect on Descartes’ statement „Cogito ergo sum‟ (I think therefore I am), reason has permeated the world of science too. Within the parameters of science; post•natal depression, schizophrenia, manic depression, bulimia, anorexia nervosa and nervous breakdown for example are seen largely in this century as biochemical events rather than as personal, social, emotional, spiritual and/or economic crisis. Mental illness is largely depicted as a biochemical aberration of nature that can be corrected by the use largely of chemistry.
Thirdly, within the parameters of politics. the emergence of communism as the embodiment of reason coupled with the „rational wishes of nation states towards self aggrandisement has now collapsed. It has been replaced by the „reason‟ of capitalist chaos in „developed‟ society. Present division inducing capitalism with its existing emphasis on market forces, the market place and the individual has virtually destroyed the social cohesiveness of the United Kingdom and arguably other Western European countries.
In this world of reason, schizophrenia is tantamount to and synonymous with madness and madness is a „normal‟ linguistic expression of subjugation and marginalisation. Anybody who is defined as having a mental health problem is liable to be defined as being mad at some stage of his or her life.
The problem with the normalisation of mental health matters in today’s society and the need for a revolution.
Linking the term normalisation and community care is wholly unreasonable since whatever is said, there is still in Wales and England and by implication beyond, a sense of stigma that surrounds a mental health problem. One can pursue normal activities such as going for a walk, eating, watching TV, listening to the radio and going for a drink. Yet as soon as one refers to a mental health problem in making an application for a job, then one’s chances of success are often severely limited. A mental health problem is therefore tantamount to unemployment. The normality of communal fear, conscious or subconscious, sometimes compounds the sense of alienation of the mental health problem itself. The common view of the schizophrenic, for example, is one of someone who Is liable to commit an act of violence against another person. However, the truth of the matter (and figures confirm this) is that the schizophrenic, the manic depressive or one with a depressive disability is more likely to injure himself or herself rather than another individual. The common perception is out of touch with reality.
Such a collection of circumstances underlines the need for a peaceful revolution in which the small become big and the marginalised become cornerstones of a new order in which courage, altruism and commitment are the principal songs of improvement. As part of this commitment to change, one must inevitably, within the context of civilised values, adhere to the basic concepts of language and culture. One must continue to struggle against the malpractice of lobotomy and electro-convulsive treatment on the mentally vulnerable. The interference of the brain with electricity (ECT) or metal (Psychosurgery) represent, need it be said, the abandonment of language and the abandonment of the individuality of culture. Lobotomies and ECT constitute the enemies of civilised communicative means. Millions of pounds are spent on chemical research, medication and hospitalisation in Wales and England every year on the maintenance of reason and normality in society. The revolving door syndrome guarantees that this is so and remains so in present circumstances for a considerable period of time. Science will never cure the irrationality of mental illness.
The failure of science and my search for alternative explanations.
As one first diagnosed as a schizophrenic by psychiatry in 1983, I was in effect told in due course that scientists were now approaching a chemical cure of the ‘illness and that it would happen in the next six or seven years or so. It has not yet happened, so it is time to think. It Is time for many of us to think.
In my assessment, if someone is de•fined with a severe mental health problem such as schizophrenia, then one should go to see an astrologist of experience and integrity. The astrologist will be able to define one’s personality and life pattern according to date, time and place of birth. One may have guilt or physical and/or emotional pain from a previous existence or existences. At a later stage, the individual may wish in time to be regressed into a previous life or lives by an expert in this field. The process may hurt. An accompanying friend may help. However, clarification may happen. Schizophrenia is merely a term. It may be caused by the fact that pain from a previous life is interfering with one’s present existence. The schizophrenic’s spirit did not wish to be born perhaps in terms of flesh and blood. In spite of this, physical life was given. This makes the schizophrenic a special person, although one possibly with a „weak psyche‟. It could be that those who are defined as having manic depression have pain or guilt in regard to previous incarnation or Incarnations. The idea that we have been here before is not so extraordinary. For the first five hundred years of Christianity, believers respected the idea of reincarnation. Similarly, it is true now to say that more than half the population of the world believes in the concept of previous existences. Somehow the spirit survives and returns to the physical world in terms of flesh, blood and bone.
For such ideas to be fully accepted requires a change in perception in whicha new order of reality is established throughout mainstream western society. This order of reality confirms the existence of God. It could be that many ofthose defined with schizophrenia and manic depression are saints or prophets in the sense that they have heard voices and seen visions. They may have had or have what the saints of old referred to as „the gift of tears‟.
It is wrong to build a civilisation on the words „Cogito ergo sum‟ („I think therefore I am‟). It is unacceptable to believe that a baby who is one second old has the ability to think to such an extent that it is able to substantiate its sense of being. It would be more correct to state „Sum ergo cogito‟ („I am therefore I think‟). This transformation of perception involves a peaceful revolution. In a book by R D Laing a named „expert‟ in the world of psychiatry regarded the prophet Ezekiel of the Old Testament as a schizophrenic. In my assessment, a percentage of consultant psychiatrists in the western world of the twentieth century regard a percentage of the prophets and writers of The Old Testament as schizophrenic. Similarly. certain saints of the Catholic Church were, in the assessment of a certain percentage of twentieth century consultant psychiatrists, mentally ill since they heard voices and saw visions. The recent emergence of the terms „psychopathy‟ and „personality disorder‟ clouds the roots of issues. As things remain, „normalisation‟ in the context of community care is impossible. This is so because it is based on normality. Normality is transient. It is not a harbinger of truth. Normality is a variable commodity. Normality once believed that the sun revolved around the earth. Normality once believed that the earth was flat. Normality never won a significant medal for courage. Normality once laughed at „mad‟ people in lunatic asylums on Sunday afternoons. That was the Victorian bourgeois word for „divertissement‟.
A need for a new way of dealing with the ‘Mad’
What is needed is a fresh order of belief in which the holy fool is seen not to be a fool at all but as a person of God. It was St. Paul who wrote that „the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men‟. Those words are as applicable now as they were then. Madness
„has become in our age some sort of lost truth.‟ I know someone defined by psychiatry as schizophrenic. He lives in a home and he is generally happy in that home, thanks to many people. He has lived there for more than three years. One evening he went for a walk. He was beaten up by a stranger. His teeth were smashed and he suffered severe bruising. He was an innocent victim. He refused to prosecute. A week or so after the incident, he said „I was glad I was beaten up. I feel better for having been beaten up‟. These were not the words of a schizophrenic. They were the words of a Christian who was trying to love his enemy. His words represented aspects of the spiritual inheritance of Christ.
The mental health voluntary sector has done well In Wales, England and for that ma1t6ter Europe in terms of raising public awareness of mental health
issues in recent years. The more that mental health is in the public domain, the less likely that people with mental health problems are to be verbally, physically and emotionally abused by members of the general public in public places. Care is no longer interpreted by the majority as a soppy do- gooding activity negating self. The time has arrived when the mental health voluntary sector has to be wary of the emergence of a right-wing leader or faction in Europe that will see in due course people with mental health problems as non-productive genetic aberrations. Fascism is the enemy of people with mental health problems. It kills them in time. And rhythm. The problem of the political right constitutes the anathema of those with mental health problems. At best. the right sees the mentally ill as „mad, bad and sad‟; at worst, the right sees the mentally fill as genetic insults. The duty of the mental health voluntary sector in Europe is to combat this threat. We are at the beginning of an age, referred to by Pope John-Paul II in his recent book as an age of „modern subjectivism‟. A peaceful revolution is needed.
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The review of Marsha Hunt’s accomplished Repossessing Ernestine (February
4) was a significant reminder of why community care for those with mental- health problems must work. The incarceration of secrets in the name of science has no relevant place in civilised society.
The perception, common in this country, that those with mental-health problems are particularly violent or dangerous to others is not reflected in fact. A person without a mental-health problem is 400% more likely to commit an act of homicide than a person with a mental-health problem.
Milford Haven, Wales
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In late August 1995, I had the opportunity to attend the first International Hearing Voices Conference, held in Maastricht, Holland. The visit was both a pleasure and privilege. Four of us, attended from Wales, including Phil Thomas, a consultant psychiatrist from Gwynedd. The conference was organised by Sandra Escher and represented a marvellous occasion in terms of providing a forum where people from mainly all over Europe could discuss and consider, both formally and informally, the issue of voice-hearing.
Dutch and primarily British voice-hearers met for three days near Maastricht before the beginning of the main conference itself. This was an opportunity for consumers and ex-consumers of mental health services who hear voices to get together. There may also have been voice hearers who have had no official contact with mental health service provision at all. Talks and workshops included the social and historical significance of voices, the validity of „schizophrenia‟ as a diagnosis, users advocacy, hearing voices research findings and consequences for therapy, rules for partnership, acceptance or ownership, T’ai Chi and astrology. The main conference took place on Thursday, August 31st and Friday, September 1st in a large conference centre in Maastricht. More than 300 attended. Pioneering psychiatrists, psychologists and other specialists, including brave and altruistic voice hearers, spoke in the main conference hall. Relevant and well attended workshops took place outside of the conference hall.
The opening welcome on the Friday by Dr A Vrijllandt, the Secretary General of the European Regional Committee of the World Federation of Mental Health was particularly positive and enhancing. It was nice to think that there was somebody with a significant position in European health affairs who was prepared to speak publicly at such a progressive and enlightened event. It seems unfair to mention individuals whose articulateness and courage made an impression on me but if ever one is in need of direction and hope in an attempt to „decatastophize‟ „schizophrenia‟, then one could do worse than to listen to or read Professor Dr Marius Romme, Ron Coleman or Louise Pembroke. „Schizophrenia‟ is merely a term, probably the worst term that has ever been invented in the „Age of Reason‟. The conference ended on Friday and the bus returned to Britain. It had been a marvellous week, a marvellous chance to meet and hear fellow voice-hearers as well as those with a progressive professional interest in the matter. If one wants to know more about voice-hearing, two publications are recommended:
‘Accepting Voices’ (eds. Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, MIND, 1993)
‘The Voice Inside’ A practical Guide to coping with Hearing Voices (Paul Baker, Hearing Voices Network)
The Hearing Voices Network in Britain is based at c/o Creative Support, Fourways House, 16 Tariff Street, Manchester ML 2EP. (01612283896)
The Hearing Voices movement in Europe has, in my assessment, the potential to be the greatest liberation movement that Europe has seen for a considerable number of years and I hope that one day Marius Romme and Sandra Escher will be honoured with a Nobel Prize for Peace.
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Good evening. Noswaith dda. Croeso. Wecome. Diolch yn fawr am ddod i‟r cyfarfod heno. Thank you for coming to this evening‟s meeting.
The theme of this evening‟s talk is Hearing Voices, that is the hearing of a voice or voices inaudible to others. It is possibly the most difficult of human experiences to articulate or to understand in the Age of Reason.
Hearing Voices is not a particularly uncommon experience. People are not machines. It has been known for some time that a high percentage of the general population experience brief and occasional voices, particularly at time of bereavement, divorce, illness, accidents or some traumatic event. Extreme circumstances can „bring on‟ the voices.
When the voices become difficult to manage, it may lead top a psychiatric diagnosis that is known to us as „schizophrenia‟. Bearing in mind that language is, at best, a bridge, „schizophrenia‟ is possibly the most linguistically unbecoming term ever invented by science.
The word „schizophrenia‟ has inspired for most of its 100 year history a common perception of fear, danger, violence, ignorance, ridicule and social ostracization.
Yet a „schizophrenic‟ is more likely to physically harm him or her self than any other person. A person without a mental health problem is 400% more likely to commit an act of homicide than a person with a mental health problem. The term „schizophrenia‟ has remained for a large part of its 100 year history a weapon of subjugation.
In my opinion, a grand and powerful mistake has been made by science and medicine in the last 200 years or so.
In my assessment, those who have been defined by traditional western psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟ are saints, prophets or geniuses or have the potential to be saints, prophets or geniuses. As someone in Hearing Voices movement in Europe once said, „the Bible is full of voice-hearers‟.
In R D Laing‟s book „The Divided Self‟ an „expert‟ in the world of traditional psychiatry labelled the prophet Ezekiel as a „schizophrenic‟. I, for one, refuse to accept that the prophet Ezekiel was a „schizophrenic‟. I refuse to accept the concept the Ezekiel was, what traditional western psychiatry might call, a „genetic insult‟ or a „bio-chemical aberration of the brain‟.
Extraordinarized by hurt, voice hearers are a people whom modern science and modern medicine have tended to transmogrify into irrelevance by whatMichel Foucault, the 20th Century French intellectual, called ‟totalitarian theories‟. In the introduction to the most recent English-language edition of Michel Foucault‟s ‟Madness and Civilization‟, one able academic wrote that ‟madness has in our age become sort of lost truth‟. I find this undeniable and am reassured in my belief that a new age is beginning.
Voice-hearing can at times be a difficult and anxiety-provoking experience. However, if one ever is in need of hope and guidance in an effort to‟decastrophize‟ ‟schizophrenia‟ in the late 20th century, then I recommend tonight‟s presenter of ‟Hearing Voices: A Rumour of Madness‟.As some-one who has been hearing voices since the age of 18, I am grateful that tonight‟s guest speaker has made a significant contribution in terms of putting the issue of voice hearing in the public domain. Peter Walker, the former secretary of State of Wales, mentioned in his introduction to the Mental Illness Strategy Document of May 1989 that he wished for the humanization and sensitization of mental health care provision in Wales. In the continued spirit of that intent, we are gathered here this evening.The problem in the second half of the 1990‟s in progressive health circles in Britain, Holland and Europe is not so much the existence of voice-hearing as the introduction of positive and creative strategies to cope with the voices, possibly the visions, within the parameters of the community itself.
In this context, the holding of the First International Hearing Voices Conference in Maastricht, Holland last year was a significant event at which tonight‟s guest speaker played a formidable and exemplary role as public speaker.
One morning near Maastricht, tonight‟s principal speaker was kind enough to give me his conference information pack and this evening in Haverfordwest, I offer in return these words of introduction and welcome to Pembrokeshire.
A considerable number of people in Pembrokeshire are interested in one way or another in mental health matters and this is something for which I am grateful.
As a fellow Celt, I regard Ron Coleman as the bravest Scotsman of his generation. A former British organizer and former training co-ordinator of the Hearing Voices Network in Manchester, Ron is an independent mental health trainer and consultant. Ron specialises in a pioneering approach to gaining ascendancy over the negative aspects of the voice-hearing experience. I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, an able, brave and articulate figure from the Hearing Voices movement in Europe. I present to you, Ron Coleman.
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The review of Anthony Storr’s interesting book mentions that most gurus are schizophrenics; this recalls a notion expressed by a psychiatric authority in R D Laimg’s The Divided Self that the prophet Ezekiel was a schizophrenic. It could be, in fact, that a significant number of schizophrenics as voice hearers have a religious and/or spiritual significance, as in the case of the North American Indians, for example.
For community care to work, and bearing in mind the non-firm scientific base of ‘schizophrenia’, it may be more progressively appropriate for ‘schizophrenia’ to share the fate of ‘drapetomania’. Drapetomania was a psychiatric mental ‘illness’ that involved ‘an excessive desire for freedom’ on the part of black slaves who ran away from their duties.
Milford Haven, West Wales
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PEMBROKESHIRE MIND SIR BENFRO BROCHURE – 1996
History of Pembrokeshire Mind Sir Benfro (1987 – 1992)
The history of the existing form of Pembrokeshire MIND Sir Benfro dates back to a meeting held at Merlins Hill Health Clinic in Haverfordwest in May 1987.
The meeting came about as a result of the initiative of Richard Robson, the MIND Project Worker in Dyfed at the time. The meeting attracted a number of individuals who included consumers of mental health services, carers,
professional mental health workers and those with an interest in mental health matters in Pembrokeshire. There were about nine people at the meeting.
In July of the previous year, Withybush Psychiatric Day Hospital had opened in Haverfordwest, and the opening of the Withybush Psychiatric Day Hospital was a significant development on the mental health landscape of Preseli Pembrokeshire.
For the people of Preseli Pembrokeshire, before 1986, mental health care service provision was largely based at St David’s Hospital in Carmarthen.
Before the 1980’s, there was in effect no care in the community at all. Either one went to St David’s Hospital in Carmarthen or one didn’t. That was in effect the nature of „community care‟ for the majority of people in Preseli Pembrokeshire in the vast majority of years in this century and the last.
The opening of Withybush Psychiatric Day Hospital represented a new developed base in Preseli Pembrokeshire where people with a variety of mental health problems could receive regular and effective treatment in a small and pleasant environment.
The opening of the day hospital in Haverfordwest in 1986 and the opening of the Haven Way Day Hospital in Pembroke Dock in 1985 represented a conscious and decisive step to humanize and sensitize care for people with mental health problems, whether those problems involved manic depression, schizophrenia, postnatal depression, depression itself or a mental breakdown.
As part of this developing process of humanization and sensitization of mental health care service provision, Pembrokeshire MIND Sir Benfro appeared in West Wales as an independent voluntary organisation that protected the interests of those people who have had or will have mental health problems.
One in four of the population of Pembrokeshire have been, are or will be affected by a mental health problem in their life time.
The Pembrokeshire MIND meeting of May 1987 was a significant moment in the development of the mental health voluntary sector in this part of Wales.
At the May 1987 meeting, the following three themes emerged as important issues to be addressed:
The general public in Pembrokeshire need to be educated about mental health matters. Ignorance and fear have too often created stigma.
Accommodation in the community [or people who have had mental health problems is at times unsatisfactory and this matter needs to be rectified. Bed and breakfast accommodation for people with mentalhealth problems is an inappropriate setting of support and care for those people with emotional health problems.
There is little for those who have had or have mental health problems to do in Haverfordwest on a Sunday since restaurants and cafés are closed. A Sunday club needs to be formed.
In regard to educating the general public in Pembrokeshire, there were a large number of public talks and public workshops held often in Haverfordwest between 1987 and 1992 that dealt with a variety of aspects concerning mental health in its widest definition. Themes of the public events included art therapy, drama therapy, the life and work of Sigmund Freud, the early history of Psychoanalysis, mental health services in Pembrokeshire, consumerism, schizophrenia, a mental health Any Questions session, mental health rights, MIND and self-help, the emotional health of Marilyn Monroe and child adolescent psychiatry. Key note speakers at these meetings included Sally Clough, an able art therapist based in Pembrokeshire, Peter Swales, an authority on the life and work of Sigmund Freud, Mike Lawson, the Development Officer of Wales MIND Cymru.
In regards to the issue of accommodation, Pembrokeshire MIND campaigned for an improvement in accommodation standards in this period and in time, in conjunction with Pembrokeshire Housing Association, the first Pembrokeshire MIND home was opened in Pembrokeshire in November 1991. A Sunday Club was opened in Haverfordwest in January 1988 and the Sunday Club met on every Sunday (and Christmas Day) between 2pm and 4pm. Pembrokeshire MIND was launched at a public meeting at Haverfordwest Library in October 1987. It was a meeting whose speakers included Richard Robson, the MIND Project Worker in Dyfed, John Payne, the Director of Wales MIND Cymru and Hywel Davies, the Secretary of the „new‟ Pembrokeshire MIND Sir Benfro.
In due course Pembrokeshire MIND become a registered charity. In the „early days‟ fund-raising was based on coffee mornings in a cellar in Dark Street, Haverfordwest belonging to Mrs Swales of the Swales Music Centre and funds were also being raised by street collections held on various Saturdays in Preseli Pembrokeshire and South Pembrokeshire. Many hundreds of pounds were raised thanks to the patient time given by tens of street collectors and the generosity of the people of Pembrokeshire.
It was between 1987 and 1992 that the seeds of a Befriending Project and a Pembrokeshire Women in MIND group were sown. A mental health voluntary sector worker for Pembrokeshire was appointed in 1991, his name was Guy Norman. The first Chairperson of Pembrokeshire MIND was Geoff Pettitt, a social worker in Pembrokeshire, its first Secretary was Hywel Davies, its first Treasurer was Tony Wilson-Ing.
Reverend David Morgan of Milford Haven became Chair of Pembrokeshire MIND between 1988 and 1992 it was under the Chairmanship of David Morgan that the seeds of Pembrokeshire MIND began to grow. Hwyel Davies was Secretary of the organisation between 1987 and 1991 and was later to become Vice-chair of Pembrokeshire MIND as well as Language and Culture Adviser to Wales MIND Cymru. Tony Wilson-Ing was succeeded by Rowland Meyrick as Treasurer. Throughout the period of 1987 to 1992, Sheila Chantler and David Drinning were key volunteers in the successful Sunday Club in Merlins Bridge, Haverfordwest, they remain volunteers to this day. The Executive Committee of the „new‟ Pembrokeshire MIND was formed in 1987. Each Executive Committee each year between 1987 and 1992 numbered about twelve who for one reason or another had an interest in mental health matters.
It is thanks to the pioneering work of the Executive Committees of Pembrokeshire MIND between 1987 and 1992 that Pembrokeshire MIND is now, as I write, the largest mental health voluntary sector organisation in Pembrokeshire.
Thanks to the brave dedication of many consumers of mental health services and thanks to the kind encouragement of empathetic mental health professionals and open-minded allies, only some whom have been mentioned in this article, Pembroke shire MIND is now a large independent voluntary sector organisation that is a significant presence on the mental health landscape of the County of Pembrokeshire.
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Voice hearing, that is the hearing of a voice or voices inaudible to others, is not an uncommon experience. In fact, many people hear voices and have never been hospitalized by traditional western psychiatry. This is a well- known but neglected fact.
It has been known for some time that a high percentage of the general population experience brief and occasional voices, particularly at times of bereavement, divorce, illness, accidents or some traumatic event. Extreme circumstances can „bring on‟ the voices.
Traditional western psychiatry usually regards voice hearing as a sy2m5ptom of „schizophrenia‟ and „schizophrenia‟ is not talked about because it is socially
However, a change seems to be in the air. The modern issue is how to deal positively with the voices.
Two publications are recommended:
„Accepting Voices‟, professor Marius Romme and Sandra Escher, MIND, 1993. Available at £3.99 plus 10% p&p from MIND Mail Order, Granta House, 15-19 Broadway, Stratford, London. EI54BQ.
„The Voice Inside: A practical guide to coping with Voices‟, Paul Baker, Hearing Voices Network, 1995. Available at £2 plus 10% p&p from the Hearing Voices Network, c/o Creative Support, Fourways House, 16 Tariff Street, Manchester, M1 2EP. (0161 2283896).
Significant people in history have heard voices. Today, certain talented and creative individuals in the world hear voices.
If you are a voice hearer and have been defined by traditional western psychiatry as a „schizophrenic‟, I suggest you talk, if you haven’t done so already, with your community psychiatric nurse and/or a trusted friend about your voices and possibly your visions. Maybe write your life story. Maybe start a diary. Maybe write poetry, paint, draw, make music, make models out of clay. Be brave. Try to change minus into plus.
The aforementioned suggestions are but some ways by which you can, with others, challenge the myth that „schizophrenics‟ are violent, morose „split‟ minds and that the mentally „ill‟ are, in the words of Adolph Hitler, „useless eaters‟.
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Pope John Paul II wrote in a recent book (1) that we are the beginning of an age of „modern Subjectivism‟. Recent events in the world of progressive western psychiatry confirm this.
With the pioneering encouragement of the Dutch consultant psychiatrist and professor of social psychiatry, Marius Romme, the issue of voice hearing has begun to gain momentum in Holland, Britain and Europe. Twelve people in a hundred hear voices. Some of these voice hearers have been labelled by traditional western psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟. Marius Romme’s contribution has helped certain voice hearers cope without resorting to significant amounts of medication. Or without having to stay for a substantial period of time in hospital.
Such change provides opportunity of considerable worth. For voice hearers to express and share, with others, their aural and possibly visual experiences without fear of psychiatric interference represents a progression of economy and hope. In regard to the voice hearer, self-knowledge and self-awareness are the ultimate product. As Tessa Bielecki wrote in her book on Teresa of Avila (2), „self-knowledge is fundamental for human integration, while the lack of it leads to neurosis and psychosis.‟
As someone defined by psychiatry as a „schizophrenic‟, I do not accept that I am essentially a biochemical aberration, doomed by to time to await, through science, normalisation. That I expect to hear voices or a voice for the rest of my days is irrelevant. What is relevant is the waste and hell of the many hundreds of thousands of people in Europe for whom voice hearing has been or is a ruinous experience. In the context of this wasted hell and in the context of biology and chemistry as practised by traditional western psychiatry with its significant emphasis on the medical model of „schizophrenia‟, the Hearing Voices movement in Europe is a promising development not without potential or benefit. It is an idea whose time, it seems, has arrived.
Anyone in Europe defined by psychiatry as having a severe mental „illness‟ must be grateful for the work and commitment of the late and able Michel Foucault. Foucault’s influence on Marius Romme’s professional activities is, it appears, implicitly marked. The published work of Thomas Szasz, Jeffrey Masson and Peter Breggin has had, I assume, a similarly implicit and significant effect.
„Accepting Voices‟ (3) may prove to be the most positively significant book published in English about „madness‟ since R.D. Laing’s „The Divided Self‟, published in 1967. It is my hope that Marius Romme and Sondra Escher, editors of „Accepting Voices‟ and leading enablers in the Hearing Voices movement in Europe, will be honoured one day with a Nobel Prize for Peace.
In the 6th century, in Pembrokeshire in West Wales, there used to be a man called Brynach. On many days, he used to go to the top of a nearby mountain in order to „commune with the angels‟. In due course he was recognised as a saint of the early Celtic Church. If Brynach had lived in Wales in the 20th Century, he would probably have been labelled by psychiatry as a „schizophrenic‟.
A few moments on a programme in the 1995 BBC „States of Mind‟ season confirmed the link between „religiosity‟ and „madness‟. A leading member of „Survivors Speak Out‟ cited the story of a friend of his. She had been known by psychiatry as a „schizophrenic‟. When alive, she used to see „angels‟, those „angels‟ used to make her so happy that she used to dance with them. A consultant psychiatrist told her that as a victim of a mental „illness‟, she was going to be „cured‟ and that the „angels‟ were going to be taken away from her. This upset the lady so much that she took her own life.
„Totalitarian Theories‟ (4) had wanted their way and the cost of „Subjugated knowledge‟ (ibid.) had been death. A 6th century saint had become, metaphorically speaking, a 20th century suicide.
It is a matter of concern that 10% of „schizophrenics‟ take their own lives. A cursory look at the visual and aural experiences connected to the lives of the early Celtic saints underlines the fact that their spiritual descendants have often been in the last 250 years socially marginalized as a result of „principles of exclusion‟. (5)
Debris of the defeat were often housed in large mental health asylums throughout Europe. Voltaire and his ilk became „mainstream‟. Human vessels of religious and spiritual experience became „aliens‟. Treated by „alienists‟. Reason and psychiatry tended to transmogrify spirit into societal irrelevance. Saints, prophets, geniuses and/or gurus and the potential for such tended to be housed in often large and foreboding, repressive settings. Inmates were often maltreated. The „Age of Reason‟ was at large.
In the 20th century, replenished by psychiatry, genetics, eugenics and a desire for racial purity, Hitler, the German Nazi leader, regarded the mentall ill‟ as „useless eaters‟. The mentally „ill‟, along with Jews,gypsies, opposition activists and homosexuals were killed in Nazi Germany in considerable numbers. The mentally „ill‟ killed in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s numbered more than 200,000.
By the time of late 20th century Britain, consumers of mental health services and their loved ones now live, as we know, in time of change. Despite the high profile of certain murders tragically committed by „schizophrenics‟, „schizophrenics‟ as a people are generally speaking gentle and peaceful folk. As are all people who have had or have mental health problems. However, „normality‟ is out of touch with reality. „Normality‟ tends to equate mental „illness‟ with violence and danger.
„Schizophrenia‟ often consists of hearing voices. In this context, Professor Marius Romme is correct to refer to three phases in coping with hearing voices: the startling phase. the organisation phase, and the stabilisation phase. Many „normal‟ people equate „madness‟ with the first of the three phases. And regard the mentally „ill‟ hence as dangerous and violent to others. Common perception is out of touch with reality.
A person without a mental health problem is 400% more likely to commit an act of homicide than a person with a mental health problem. A
„schizophrenic‟ is 100 times more likely to physically harm him or herself than harm anyone else. For every person killed by someone with a diagnosis of „schizophrenia‟, drink drivers kill approximately twenty four.
Large psychiatric hospitals have either been closed or reduced in capacity. Inhabitants of psychiatric hospitals have been’ released. People troubled and not so troubled have been encouraged to talk. At home. In homes. Self-help groups. Bars. Cafes. Restaurants. Parks. Day hospitals. Public and private place of one type or another. In the community. A humanisation and a sensitisation of mental health service care provision appears to have taken place in Britain in the past forty years. This liberalisation has been nothing short of a revolution.
The mistaken tendency of the British media to accentuate the link between mental „illness‟ and physical violence is lamentable. It makes community care more difficult to achieve and it disjoints reality. On humanitarian grounds alone. community care has to work. For too long, traditional western psychiatry as practised in this century and the last has often been an agent of unrepentant repression rather than a willing and humble agent of enablement and integration.
In the context of the present century, psychiatric intervention should not be seen by traditional western psychiatry as an end in itself but as a means withother means to a more positive conclusion. Consumers of mental health services have to, I suggest, try to confront trauma and try to create something positive out of something negative.
Change minus into plus. A new reality has to emerge, one in which, I suggest, astrology and the concept of reincarnation („past lives‟) are more present than „normal‟ traditional thinking allows. Rightly or wrongly I believe that a considerable number of people in Europe are willing and able to sympathise in public or in private with those people who have or have had mental health problems. This is virtually unknown if one takes into account Europe in the last 250 years or so.
lain MacCleod the late Tory politician, stated that „competition needs compassion‟ and certain significant figures in the competitive culture of Britain today appear to show compassion towards the depressive marginalised. The wish of significant people in Britain to see community care for those with mental health problems work, the increased public profile of mental health as a contemporary British issue, the welcome 1995 BBC „States of Mind‟ season and the successful holding of the first International Hearing Voice conference in Holland in 1995 reflect that mental health matters is in a time of change. And that possibly a New Age is beginning.
Let us hope that mental health service care provision, professional and/or voluntary, is able to put with others flesh on the bones of the new reality of community care. In time of change, in place of fear this new reality of care in the community is challenging and historically significant.
Crossing The Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II. Jonathan Cope, 1994.
Teresa of Avila, Tessa Bielecki, Burns and Oates, 1994,
Accepting Voices, Eds. Professor Marius Romme and Sondra Escher, MIND, 1993.
Power/Knowledge .’ Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972/77, Michel Foucault, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1980.
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 4, ‘Michel Foucault’, 1993.
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Hearing Voices Through The Ages
People have been hearing voices for many thousands of years. Voice hearing dates to at least 10,000 BC. In early civilizations, people who heard voices were seen as individuals of spiritual significance. Hence voice hearers held significant positions in early societies of the world.
Julian Jaynes, an American psychologist at Princeton University in the USA, writes in his long and detailed 1977 book “The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind” that the leaders of many early civilizations of the world were voice hearers. These voice hearers were seen by their subjects as being in direct communion with the gods or with God via their voice hearing experiences. Temples, monuments, murals, statues, figurines and pyramids in Egypt and, for example in Central and South America, were built in tribute to this “divinity of madness”.
The bicameral (bicameral = consisting of two chambers) kingdoms of the Egyptians, of the Hittites, of the Maya people and of the Incas were grand tributes to the world of the supernatural and to the world of the divine. From Turkey to Peru, from Egypt to Mexico, from Cyprus to Central Asia, the leaders of these early civilizations were hallucinatinatory god-kings. At the death of these spiritual figures, considerable preparations were made by their subjects to please their peers on their spiritual journey to the “next world”. After death, the hallucinatory god-kings were regarded as gods. In other words, in early societies of the world dating back to approximately 10,000 BC, voice hearing was seen as a divine phenomenon.
The thesis of Julian Jaynes is that, in the words of Jaynes, “some of the fundamental, most characteristic, and most commonly observed symptoms of florid unmedicated schizophrenia are uniquely consistent with … the bicameral mind”.
In a similar context to the bicameral kingdoms of Egypt, of Mesopatamia, of the Maya people and of the Inca people, the heroes of the Iliad and the Prophets of the Old Testament often heard the voices of gods or the voice of God.
The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan Wars, a war caused by the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. Helen left her husband and ran off to
Troy with her lover Paris. Her husband pursued her with all the armies of Greece and Homer wrote the Iliad about the war that followed Homer
frequently describes some Greek god or goddess appearing to a warrior in the middle of the Trojan war. The Greek god or goddess tells the warrior what to do. In other words, at a time of extreme circumstance or at a time of trauma, a god or a goddess appears. According to Julian Jaynes, this type of phenomenon was not a metaphorical experience but a real experience.
Similarly the experiences of the Prophets of the Old Testament were not metaphorical experiences but real experiences. The extraordinary aural and visual experiences of such Prophets as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Job and Amos were not literary phenomena but were real experiences. If Ezekiel, Isaiah, Job or Amos were alive in Europe in the 20th century, they would be regarded by psychiatry as being mentally “ill”. In the 1960 book “The Divided Self” by R.D.Laing one significant consultant psychiatrist refers to the Prophet Ezekiel of the Old Testament as being a “schizophrenic”.
Many of the Prophets of the Old Testament were regarded by the majority of their contemporaries as “aliens”. The Prophets of the Old Testament were not “normal”. In many ways they were outsiders, prepared at a crucial time to swim against the tide of what their contemporary society would regard as “normality” . The Prophets of the Old Testament were “misfits”. They fitted badly into their contemporary society. In the 1920 edition of Peake’s Commentary On The Bible, the founding stone on which academics build their interpretation of Christianity, Dr. G.C.Joyce in an essay entitled “Old Testament Prophecy” wrote the following about the Prophets of the Old Testament:
“… in all early societies, the abnormal mental states of vision and ecstasy were as profoundly impressive to the onlookers as they are to the man who experiences them. Both he and they are convinced that these mysteries are conclusive evidence of intercourse with the spiritual world… But now the general attitude towards the attendant circumstances of early inspiration has been completely reversed. The unstable psychic temperament, with its tendency to fall into trances, instead of arousing respect as of old, is the subject of suspicion. The fact that any claimant to inspiration was subject to trances and other mental disturbances would in many quarters today raise doubts as to his sanity, and would certainly weaken the force of his testimony… Great truths and great conceptions, having been elaborated in the lower and hidden strata of the mental life, suddenly emerge into consciousness. The process is certainly abnormal. Undoubtedly, the prophets were abnormal. They were men of genius. They were visionaries… From their own spiritual experiences they learned how Divine Truth is recognised in daily intercourse with the spirit of God… Frequently the Prophet was forced by inspiration within him to place himself in direct opposition to the majority of his fellow-countrymen. By his own generation he was an alien…”
The use of the term “alien” to describe the Prophets of the Old Testament is pertinent. In the early history of psychiatry in the Age of Reason, “psychiatrists” were known as “alienists” and the mentally “ill” were known as “aliens”.
Voice hearers after the time of the Prophets of the Old Testament include Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, a number of saints of the early Celtic Church, Joan of Arc, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. According to M.A Screech, the author of the 1997 book “Laughter At The Foot Of The Cross” (Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1997) Jesus was regarded by most of his contemporaries as a madman, someone to be mocked and to be ridiculed.
There have been other voice hearers of significance in the past two thousand years. St. Brynach of North Pembrokeshire was a 6th century saint of the Celtic Church. In his lifetime he used to “commune” with angels on a mountain in North Pembrokeshire. St. Cuthbert, a 7th century saint of the early Christian Church, heard a voice or voices. St. Cuthbert in his lifetime displayed certain aspects of self-neglect that often characterises the behaviour of the typical 20th century “schizophrenic”. Cuthbert did not use to wash and he used to allow his finger-nails to grow to excessive length. The saints of old used to refer to the “gift of tears” and it could be said that many of the mentally “ill” have, in nervous breakdown, “the gift of tears”. St. Joan of Arc, as a result of hearing voices, led a campaign in France against the English invader. As a result, Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake as a heretic by the English Church. St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross also had voice-hearing experiences and their published work was the product of unusual and abnormal life-events.
My thesis, rightly or wrongly, is that since about 1750 in Europe, philosophy and science have gradually become more and more dominant in European society at the expense of institutional faith. Scepticism and cynicism have replaced institutional belief. In the middle of the 18th century, Voltaire’s book “Candide” satirized in a simple and effective way the view of Leibnitz, the traditional philosopher, that “tout va au mieux dans le meilleur des mandes possibles” (“everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”). The publication of “Candide” symbolized a change in mood in Europe that in the next two hundred and fifty years increasingly undermined common belief in the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Voltaire and other philosophers of the Age of Reason insisted that in the words of Nietzche, the German philosopher, that “God is dead”. Philosophy, science and psychiatry, supported by a social adoration of “normality”, marginalized voice hearing into societal irrelevance.
However, there have been and there are certain significant 20th century voice hearers. 20th century voice hearers include Carl Gustav Jung, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Zoe Wannamaker.
Not all voice hearing experiences are, as you know, pleasant experiences. According to Aidan Schingler, an artist who held an exhibition of his “schizophrenic” work at Durham Cathedral in August 1997, “schizophrenia” consists of a “spiritual conflict”. “Schizophrenia” appears to involve, as it were, often a giant battle between God and the Devil.
20th century voice hearers labelled by psychiatry as “schizophrenic” include Louis Wain (“the man who drew cats”), John Ogden (the English classical pianist), Peter Green (the Founder Member of the blues band Fleetwood Mac), Syd Barrett (an ex-member of the band Pink Floyd) and Brian Wilson (singer•/songwriter and leading force of the American band, the Beach Boys).
In 1975 Pink Floyd issued an LP entitled “Wish You Were Here”. The LP was dedicated to and was about Syd Barrett, a former key member of the band who was to become labelled by psychiatry as “schizophrenic”. The song which I shall play is the title track of the Pink Floyd LP “Wish You Were Here”. It is the first song in the history or popular music, I believe, that has as its theme a tribute to a “schizophrenic”.
Voice hearing is not a particularly uncommon experience. According to recent research, 10-15% of people hear a voice or voices over a long period of time. 4-5% of individuals hear a voice or voices at anyone moment in time. The impact of these voices fall into two types. Most people perceive the voice or the voices as helpful; the voices evoke a feeling of recognition. These people feel that the purpose of the voices is strengthening and raising their self-esteem. The voices are experienced as positive and as an understandable aspect of their internal selves. Others (and they are a minority) experience the voices as aggressive and negative from the very beginning. For these people the voices are hostile and are not accepted as part of themselves. They suffer from negative voices that can cause chaos in their minds, demanding so much attention that communication with the outside world is extremely difficult. However in most circumstances, voice hearing is manageable. There are at least two million voice hearers in the UK. There are approximately 250,000 “schizophrenics” in the UK.
People have been hearing voices for” thousands of years and according to Julian Jaynes, the American psychologist, voice hearers played a significant part in various societies of the world until about 1300 BC. Then, according to Jaynes, the bicameral mind broke down. However since 1300 BC there have been many significant voice hearers who were often not recognised in their own life-time. R.D.Laing wrote in his 1967 book “The Politics of Experience” (Penguin, 1990) that “madness is the birthpains of a higher consciousness. David Cooper wrote in his 1993 Introduction to Michel Foucault’s book “Madness And Civilization” (Routledge, 1993) that “madness has beco3m4 e in our age some sort of lost truth”. However, as we enter a New
Age at the approach of the new Millennium, I believe that voice hearers will acquire in the next 100 years a greater significance than has been traditionally afforded to them in the Age of Reason.
Interesting material has been published about voice hearing in the past five years. Paul Baker‟s book “The Voice Inside : A Practical Guide To Coping With Hearing Voices” (Handsell Publications,1995 – available from MIND Publications) is an interesting and positive contribution to the issue of voice hearing. The book “Accepting Voices” (edited by Professor Marius Romme and Sondra Escher, MIND,1993) is an equally significant yet more detailed publication about the issue of voice hearing. Philip Thomas’s 1997 book “The Dialectics Of Schizophrenia” (Free Association Books,1997) calls rightly for a more balanced discourse between voice hearers and psychiatry. For too long, I feel, psychiatry has equated all voice hearing with madness.
In conclusion, voice hearing as a phenomenon of nature has been present amongst the human race for at least 12,000 years. For most of those twelve thousand years voice hearing has been interpreted by most of society either immediately or eventually as a phenomenon of sanctity or holiness rather than as a phenomenon of madness or lunacy. Voice hearers have, I suggest, a spiritual or religious significance. Or the potential for such a significance. Most voice hearers have no contact whatsoever with psychiatry. It is a shame that, in the words of the 1996 Times Preacher of the Year, the Church gave the world of Nature to Science and the Church gave its Heart to Psychiatry in the twentieth century. However, with the introduction of community care, change is now in the air. One is gradually allowed to talk about voices. The pioneering work of Professor Marius Romme and Sondra Escher with voice hearers and with children who hear voices is significant and helpful. The 1995 book “Conversations With God: An Uncommon Dialogue” written by an American voice hearer, Neale Donald Walsch (Hodder & Stoughton, 1995) is an international best-seller.
It could be that stones so readily rejected by society in the past two hundred and fifty years may become cornerstones of a new reality in the next two hundred and fifty years. As the Age of Pisces moves into the Age of Aquarius, voice hearers may acquire as writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, poets and artists a new perspective and a new significance. In this context, it could very well be that the least shall become the most.
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How To Start A Hearing Voices Group : A Possibility
The purpose of this talk is to reflect on the issues surrounding the establishment of a Hearing Voices Group and to, where possible, guide and advise the establishment of such a Group. I am not going to state categorically how to start a Hearing Voices Group but I shall merely offer suggestions and comments. This talk is only an opinion.
I shall talk primarily about what has been done in Pembrokeshire in West Wales. Hopefully the talk will be of interest and help to you and your colleagues.
The seeds for the foundation of the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group were sown in my mind in 1995. In about May 1995 I read a clear and intelligent article about voice hearing on the back page of Open Mind, the MIND magazine. MIND is, as you know, the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. The MIND article stated that voice hearing is a common feature of „schizophrenia‟ and that there would be held in August 1995 the first International Hearing Voices Conference in Maastricht in Holland. The Conference would involve voice hearers, mental health workers, academics, mental health specialists and other individuals with an interest, professional or otherwise, in the phenomenon of voice hearing.
On reading the article, I felt liberated, amazed yet partly frightened. As some-one who had been labelled by psychiatry as a “schizophrenic” in 1983, 1 now saw myself and my life in a new light. I used to think that the voices that I heard were thoughts but I now realized that I, along with many others in Europe, was a voice hearer. I made arrangements to travel to Holland to attend the Conference. I went. Three travelled from Wales. The first International Hearing Voices Conference was excellent and well-organised. It was attended by about 300 people mainly from Europe. I returned to Pembrokeshire and thought that it would be a nice idea to start a Hearing Voices Group in my native county.
In about October 1995 I made an appointment to see Guy Norman, the Pembrokeshire mental health worker for West Wales Action For Mental Health. West Wales Action For Mental Health is a voluntary-sector mental
health organisation that enables voluntary-sector groups in West Wales to start, t3o6 grow, to consolidate and to resolve internal and/or external
problems. I explained that I had been to Holland in August and that it would
be a nice idea to start a Hearing Voices Group in Pembrokeshire. Guy Norman agreed with this idea. The purpose of the Group would be primarily to raise awareness of the phenomenon of voice hearing and to try to help voice hearers and their allies in a progressive, positive and emancipatory manner. I was partly frightened about starting a Hearing Voices Group in rural West Wales but I knew that this was the way forward.
Guy Norman of West Wales Action For Mental Health and I arranged a public talk at Withybush Conference Centre in Haverfordwest. The Guest Speaker was Ron Coleman. Labelled by psychiatry as a „chronic schizophrenic‟ in 1991, he has travelled and lectured extensively in Europe and the United States Of America speaking in public about voice hearing. He is former Coordinator of the Hearing Voices Network in Manchester. The title of Coleman‟s talk in Haverfordwest in March 1996 was „Hearing Voices: Rumours Of Madness‟. It was an excellent evening, attended by about 70 people mainly from Pembrokeshire. At the end of the evening, about 25 people gave their name, address and telephone number so that they could be placed on the Contact List of the new Hearing Voices Group. As a direct result of the „Rumours Of Madness‟ evening in March 1996 it was decided to form a Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group.
From about May 1996 until about May 1997, the new Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group met monthly at a pub in Haverfordwest. The Group was given a grant of £200 to finance the holding of these meetings and to finance the free distribution of 20 copies of Paul Baker’s publication „The Voice Inside: A Practical Guide To Coping With Hearing Voices‟.
Monthly meetings at this stage used to be divided into two parts. In the first part of each meeting, voice hearers and non-voice hearers discussed ways of raising public awareness of the phenomenon of voice hearing in Pembrokeshire and what we as a Group should do to advance our concerns regarding the stigma of mental „illness‟. In the second half of each meeting, voice hearers had the opportunity to talk about their voices („auditory hallucinations‟) and about their visions („visual hallucinations‟). However, this two-hour arrangement was unsatisfactory. One minute, the Group was a campaigning organisation, trying to import new ideas from Holland and England and trying to raise social awareness of voice hearing. The next minute, the Hearing Voices Group was essentially a forum for users of mental health services to talk about voices and visions. In short, the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group lacked focus in this format. Furthermore, by May 1997 it lacked funds.
In about May 1997, the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group changed direction. Monthly meetings now were held at no cost at another3v7enue in
Haverfordwest. Meetings involve voice hearers, mental health professional care workers, a paid MIND worker, a statutory sector mental health worker and a representative from West Wales Action For Mental Health. Meetings number about seven or eight individuals.
The aims of the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group are five-fold:
to support a Pembrokeshire network of people who hear voices and their allies to better understand the experience alongside workers, families and friends.
to set up self-help groups of voice hearers to share experiences and discuss strategies for coping with voices.
to raise awareness of society about the meaning of voices to reduce ignorance and stigma.
to develop a range of non-medical ways of assisting people to cope with their voices.
to share the experience of voice hearers who have not been in contact with psychiatric services with those who have.
What has the Hearing Voices Group in Pembrokeshire done or what does it do?
Photocopies of mental health articles from the specialist and general UK press are issued at the monthly meetings. Photocopies are also distributed to certain other key mental health workers in the county. Articles originate from Breakthrough, Asylum, Mental Health Care, Psychiatric Care, The Nursing Times as well as The Times, The Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and The Guardian.
These types of photocopies formed, to a significant extent, the basis of „Hearing Voices: An Information Pack‟ that was published in July 1998. Due to funding from the National Lottery Charities Board Wales, 200 copies of the Pack were distributed in Pembrokeshire and beyond.
The Hearing Voices Group in Pembrokeshire held a Hearing Voices Awareness Day in Pembrokeshire in July 1998. The Day was entitled „Insanity Or Enlightenment?‟ The day attracted between 80 and 90 attendees. Guest speakers on the day included an Honorary Lecturer in Nursing Studies at Manchester University, two representatives from the Hearing Voices Network also in Manchester, a Pembrokeshire Art Therapist and the Chair of the
Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group. The Day was generally regarded as a success. The Psychiatric Day Hospital in Haverfordwest closed down on the day to enable staff and voice hearers to attend.
The Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group holds a monthly Video Club at Pembrokeshire MIND Sir Benfro Resource Centre in Haverfordwest. The Club shows a TV programme, a video film or a training film connected in one way or another to mental health, „schizophrenia‟ and/or voice hearing. Attendance is free. The video programme each month lasts at least 30 minutes and it is followed by a discussion on the video itself.
The Hearing Voices Group in Pembrokeshire also issues a monthly Newsletter. The Newsletter is called „Hearing And Belonging‟. „Hearing And Belonging‟ deals with voice hearing, „schizophrenia‟ and/or mental health from a variety of perspectives. It aims to raise awareness of various issues in a modern progressive and integrative manner.
Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group is a small yet broad coalition umbrella group of voice hearers and mental health workers. Its Chair is a Voice Hearer. Its Vice Chair is a Voice Hearer. Both Secretary and Treasurer are mental health workers. The Group covers a population area of approximately 113,000.
Under the umbrella of this Group, I hope that various hearing voices self- help groups will emerge throughout Pembrokeshire in the next five to ten years. However this may be difficult. As Pembrokeshire is largely a rural community with widely scattered centres of population, transport difficulties or indeed flashes of paranoia on the part of voice hearers may mean that voice hearers are reluctant to form a self-help group in Tenby, Pembroke Dock or, say, St. Davids. The stigma of mental „illness‟ amongst certain people in the UK remains considerable but overall I think that time is on the side of the „lunatic‟. As you may already be aware, by the year 2020 more people in the UK will have, according to the World Health Organisation, mental health problems than physical ailments.
Since the „Rumours of Madness‟ evening in Haverfordwest in March 1996, the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group has achieved much and has had an influence on people in Pembrokeshire and beyond. With other key individuals and organisations in the county, it has had an effect in terms of humanizing and sensitizing mental health service provision in the county. Voice hearers are now allowed to talk about their voices with Community Psychiatric Nurses and consultant psychiatrists without necessarily being sectioned. Cognitive behavioural therapy is active in Pembrokeshire. Most mental health workers in Pembrokeshire are now aware of the courageous and pioneering work of Marius Romme and Sondra Escher from Holland. 39
Any voice hearing group must realize that the group is far bigger than any individual and that it is far bigger than the sum of its parts. In the next twelve months, the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group hopes to have its own web site on the Internet and also hopes to hold a „Psychosis And Creativity‟ concert involving music, drama, poetry and art.
How you decide to form your Hearing Voices Group will depend on you and your colleagues. What I suggest and it is only a suggestion, is the establishment of a user-led coalition umbrella group covering a large population health trust area. The coalition umbrella group would consist of voice hearers, carers, and mental health workers who have an open-minded and positive interest in a phenomenon that has been with us for at least 12,000 years. Under that umbrella coalition group, there would emerge various voice hearing self-help groups in due course (if they are not already in place). Power struggles and / or self aggrandizement have no civilized place in a Voice Hearing Group or for that matter in any mental health organisation. The primary concern of any Voice Hearing Group must be the voice hearer who as a result of hearing voices finds living difficult.
The primary threat that faces the mentally „ill‟ in political terms is the Fascist Right. They thrive on ignorance and fear in order to promulgate death. Consequently I suggest that all Hearing Voices Groups in the UK and indeed that all mental health organisations in the UK are anti-sexist, anti- racist and anti-homophobic. The twentieth century lesson of Nazism means that all voice hearers, in particular those labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟ must be anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic no matter how lonely or tortuous these progressive positions of belief may be to you personally, socially and / or culturally.
I wish to play a song by Tom Waits, the black American singer-songwriter. The song is called „And A Little Rain Never Hurt No-one‟. It is a song about misfits. It is a song about people who fit badly into their contemporary society. And voice hearers do fit badly into their contemporary society. In this respect, voice hearers are like deaf people, blind people, the unemployed, the low-paid, the worried, physically handicapped people, black people, people with mental health problems, gays, lesbians, bisexual, transsexuals, women, single mothers, Native American Indians, gypsies, Aborigines, Maya people in South and Central America. All these people fit badly into their contemporary society whether they live in Britain, the United States of America, Australasia, Mexico, Peru or Abercwmboi.
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that this song has been written on the margins of society, the song that you will hear is about hope and a better
day. It is about transcending alienation. Whether you as a „lunatic‟ have been se4x0ually, emotionally and / or physically traumatized or whether you have been affected by severe drug „psychosis‟ or whether you are a mental health worker, in the words of Tom Waites „and a little rain never hurt no- one‟.
There is a line in the song that you will hear that says „you must risk something that matters‟. When I heart those words I think about Hearing Voices Movement in Europe and the brave and innovative work of Marius Romme and Sandra Escher in Holland.
Psychiatric orthodoxy must change. It must change in the sense that it must no longer see voice hearing as being essentially a bio-chemical disease of the brain. The ultimate purpose of a Hearing Voices Group is to deconstruct psychopathology.
In conclusion, I hope that you, whether you are a voice hearer or a mental health worker, I hope that you will regard the establishment of a Hearing Voices Group as a possibility whose time has arrived and whose time is beckoning. We live in a time of change, of economic turbulence and emotional upheaval. The world of mental health service provision is no exception. The most positive and progressive way forward is to form a Hearing Voices Group and if that group can help just one person, then it is all worthwhile. That concludes my talk. Thank you for listening.
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My first vision (“visual hallucination”) was in about 1961. I was aged about seven. It was late at night. I was standing between my father’s bedroom and my mother’s bedroom. Suddenly, on looking in my father’s bedroom, I saw a dead body under my father’s bed. I was frightened. I said to my mother who was resting in her own bed: “There’s a dead body under Dad’s bed!” She said: “Don’t be so silly. There’s no dead body under Dad’s bed.” But I insisted that there was. I argued but eventually I became quiet when I realized that she did not believe me.
The second vision was in October 1975. I was a student of Modern Languages, spending my third year abroad in Salamanca in Spain. I was with a girl in her bedroom and we were intimate. Suddenly I saw what I thought to be the Devil looking at me. My face blanched. The girl I \vas with asked me: “What’s the matter?” But I, like a fool (a true man), lied and said: “Nothing”.
The third vision occurred in late November/early December 1985. I was a “psychiatric patient” in a General Hospital in North Devon at the time. It was a Sunday. I was on my way by foot to Mass in the local town. I was on my own. Suddenly a funny (strange) feeling came over me. I looked up at the early evening sky. I saw a vision of Jesus Christ in the sky. The colours of his garment were primary and extraordinary. His right arm was outstretched. His arm was pointing in the opposite direction to where I was going.
I have been hearing voices since about 1965 when I was aged 11. The nice voice used to help me at key moments during my time at boarding school in Gloucestershire. The voice used to help me and guide me during my time away from home. I first began to hear a nasty voice in about February 1973 when I was 18. Something not nice happened to me at a public toilet in West Wales and that’s when I gradually became more and more confused by the mixture of good and nasty voices. I became paranoid.
I had a religious upbringing in Wales and England. And I have regularly prayed to God since about the age of five. I believe that we have all lived before and that in my previous lives, I was Judas Iscariot, a Cathar (a 13th century French “heretic “) and James VI of Scotland/James I of England. The purpose of life is to learn from the mistakes of previous lives and to fulfil one’s duty in line with one’s astrological birth chart. I was labelled by psychiatry as a “schizophrenic” in 1983.
I think t4h2at those who have had or have mental health problems are saints, prophets, geniuses, gurus and/ or shamen. Or the potential for such.
Reincarnation (“previous lives”) and astrology can help the plight of the mentally “ill” in society.
However, if one visits a “previous-lives regressionist” or an astrologist, go with a friend or a trusted colleague for support.
One key voice-hearing experience I had was in a History lesson in about 1972. I was about 17. The History master was talking about James I of England (formerly James VI of Scotland) and how this monarch used to be known as “the wisest fool in Christendom”. On hearing this phrase, the hairs on the back of my neck stirred. I had a funny (strange) feeling on the back of my neck. I heard a voice (an “auditory hallucination”) that said: “He (the History master) is talking about you. One day you’re going to be a world figure”. I said in silence to the voice: “I do not want to be a world figure”. I was frightened by the words of the voice.
My nice voice calls me “Jesus”, “the most significant spiritual thinker since Mohammed”, “a saint”, “a genius”, “a good man”. It is my friend. It sometimes laughs at me. As I type, I can hear it say: “I am always with you.” “I am your friend”. At other times I can see dogs walking around happily; at times I can hear them barking. The nasty voice calls me “a liar”, “a bastard”, “a homosexual”, “a bastard” and “an evil man” amongst other things. Its language is terrible and abusive. I sometimes hear the voice of a lecturer who meant a lot to me at university. He is “dead” but I can hear him. I can see him rubbing his hands. He says laughingly: “You tell them, boyo.” Originally, I used to think that voices were thoughts. But I was wrong.
There are certain aspects of my life which I hate. I wore a toupee for four years. I was a hopeless teacher of children in my first teaching post. I went into teaching because I saw myself as a “Jesus” figure and heard a voice say: “Come unto me, o little children”. I misunderstood the voice. I am better with adults. I speak Spanish, Welsh, French as well as English. I was a successful Lecturer of Spanish. Although I am 43 (bald and fat), I see myself as a child. I believe profoundly in God.
I love God very much and I try to speak to him every day. We all have a duty to worship, love and fear God. But this process is more than mere duty. I, like R.D.Laing, believe that “madness is the birthpains of a higher consciousness” (‘The Politics Of Experience, R. D. Laing, Penguin, 1990). I also believe, like David Cooper, that “madness has in our age become some sort of lost truth” (Introduction by Cooper to Madness And Civilization:A History Of Insanity In The Age Of Reason, Michel Foucault, Routledge, 1993). Mary Barnes wrote of the religious and / or spiritual dimension to “madness” in the book Something Sacred (Mary Barnes with Ann Scott, Free Association Books, 1989).
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Psychiatry has created such fear of people who have mental health problems. Those who have had mental health problems have been traditionally regarded as the lowest of the low. Unemployment, social isolation, poverty, homelessness, stigma, contempt and fear surround people with mental health problems like a shroud. It is easier to live in society with a prison record than a psychiatric record.
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The principal enemy of the ‘lunatic’ is psychiatric orthodoxy. I do think people need to be educated about the past of psychiatry – how it has labelled groups such as single mothers, lesbians and gay men, slaves who tried to escape, all as ‘mentally ill’. Psychiatry labelled me a ‘schizophrenic’ in 1983. I was unaware of the ramifications of the term, the fear it inspired in others. I told friends about it and they cut me out of their lives; it’s still a sore point.
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The unwanted side-effects of psychiatric medication are also a great concern. I know someone who has tardive dyskinesia. His feet shake, his hands shake – and it‟s not the result of mental distress, it‟s the medication he was given. So psychiatry has actually further damaged someone who has already mentally vulnerable.
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Hello. My name is Hywel Davies. I am a user of mental health services from Pembrokeshire. I am the Chair of the Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group, I am a member of the Pembrokeshire Mental Health Forum. I am a member of Dyfed/Powys Mental Health Link.
Good morning. Bore da. Buenos días. Bonjour. Guten Morgan. I always thought that Morgan was a good name for a Welshman. Seriously though, welcome to the first Dyfed/Powys Mental Health Link „Think Positive‟ Fair at Llanelwedd. Croeso i‟r ffair. Mae hi‟n hyfryd i weld gymaint ohonoch chi yn yffair. Mae‟r ffair hon yn paratoi y ffordd i gwasanaethau iechyd meddwl gwell yma yng Gymru.
Mental health includes emotional well-being. A mental health problem may include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, depression, a nervous breakdown, stress, anxiety, Alzheimer‟s Disease, schizophrenia and/or manic depression.
It is nice to seesacred so many significant individuals here today. But I hasten to add that as users, carers, mental health workers, statutory decision-makers and/or as politicians in the new Cymru, you are all significant because you are pioneers. We are pioneers in preparing the way for better mental health service provision in Dyfed and Powys and beyond.
Peter Walker, the former Secretary of State for Wales, stated that a key purpose of the innovative Mental Illness Strategy Document of May 1989 was to „humanize‟ and to „sensitize‟ mental health service provision in Wales. That is also the purpose of Dyfed/Powys Mental Health Link. As a collection of mental health voluntary sector groups in Dyfed and Powys, the aim of Dyfed/Powys Link is to at best „humanize‟ and to „sensitize‟ mental health service provision in this part of Wales, especially in corners where psychiatric orthodoxy is excessively bio-chemically obsessed. Just because a consultant psychiatrist may earn £70,000 per annum does not necessarily mean that that salary constitutes a sound investment by the State.
Rosa Monckton, the UK spokesperson for the charity „Kids‟ stated recently that medicine is in danger of becoming a god and that in contemporary western society, the greatest handicap that a disabled person faces is the prejudice of others. Whether one is blind, deaf, dumb, physically handicapped, mentally handicapped or whether one has an emotional health difficulty, the greatest burden facing the disabled person is the prejudice of others.
In the field of mental health for example, conventional tabloid wisdom states that a person with a mental health problem constitutes a gross physical danger to others. However the reality is that a person without a mental health problem is 400% more likely to commit an act or homicide than a person with a mental health problem. That is only one example regarding the mythology of the link between a mental health problem and violence.
Pwrpas y dydd heddiw yw codi ymwybyddiaeth ynglyn a materion iechyd meddwl yn Nyfed a Phowys ac y tu allan i Dyfed a Phowys. Mae ‘na yn rhyw fath o chwyldro tawel yn digwydd nawr yn y byd iechyd meddwl ym Mhydrain a Ewrop. A fel rhan o’r proces ‘na, mae rhaid i gwasanaethau iechyd meddwl cyfoes yn Ewrop cymryd perspectif mwy holistic a mwy progresif o broblemau iechyd meddwl. Mae‟r petspectif newydd „na yn cynnwys factorau economaidd, personal, cymdeithasol, diwyllianol, rhywiol, ysbrydol a neurological.
The fair is a day for becoming more aware of key perspectives that surround the issue of mental health in Dyfed and Powys and beyond in the late twentieth century. As part of the day, there will be a series of brief talks on the Review of the 1983 Mental Health Act, Funding The Voluntary Sector, Continuing Care And Respite, Issues For Child And Adolescent Services, Treatment Options, ECT (electro-convulsive treatment) and a Question/Answer session. At mid-day there will be the launch of the Dyfed/Powys Shared Care Plan and the launch of Crisis Cards in Dyfed/Powys. In the afternoon there will be an opportunity to peruse the considerable number of mental health stalls and exhibitions in the Montgomery Pavilion.
Today is essentially an awareness-raising day. It is not necessarily a day to walk away with answers. I hope that you find this fair helpful and interesting. Welcome. Croeso.
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The Madness Of Adam And Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity by David Horrobin
The Madness Of Adam And Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity is an intelligent, articulate and courageous book that states the link between mental „illness‟ and creativity in a radical, readable and informed manner. This book has rightly received substantive review-coverage in certain UK broadsheets in the past four months. As a voice hearer living In rural Pembrokeshire in West Wales I offer this not particularly original review.
Dr David Horrobin‟s fundamental thesis is that „schizophrenia‟ has helped the evolutionary ascent of humankind from ape to human in the past 100,000 years. This claim may seem extraordinary. However, there appears to be a link between mental „Illness‟ and creativity and this link has determined at key moments the history of humankind in the past 100,000 years. The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity is a calm, radical publication not without detailed intelligence nor mind-blowing vision.
Dr David Horrobin lives in Scotland and he is the current President of the Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain (SAGB) based In Bangor, North Wales. A scholar of Balliol College, Oxford, he obtained the top First Class Honours medical degree of his year. To this he added a clinical medical degree and a doctorate in neuroscience. He was a Fellow of Magdalen College, where he taught medicine. His academic career took him to St Mary’s Hospital in London, to Nairobi where he helped to found the new medical school, to Newcastle and to Montreal.
In 1970 Dr Horrobin became an Adviser to the Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain (SAGB). Thus began a lifetime of interest in „schizophrenia‟ which, combined with a fascination for Africa and human origins, led to the generation of concepts discussed in this innovative text. Horrobin has founded two biotech companies. Laxdale, the company he currently runs, specialises in developing new drugs for psychiatric and neurological disorders. He is the founding editor of „Medical Hypothesis‟, which for almost thirty years has been the leading journal for the presentation of new ideas in medicine. Horrobin is the author of 500 scientific papers.
In other words, Dr David Horrobin is an individual of significant intelligence and academic, practical courage. Since 1970 he has concerned himself on a professional basis with misfits, fools, idiots, attention-seekers, manipulatives and the „worried well‟. Or possibly that should read: saints, prophets, shamen, gurus, geniuses or the potential for such. Up to 50 per cent of psychiatric inpatients are victims of childhood sexual abuse, some of which will have been incestuous (Williams J. et al, 1993, Purchasing Effective Mental Health Services For Women, Canterbury, University of Kent).
Horrobin states in this book that about 100,000 years ago we became human. We became human because some of us are different. A species of clever ape, which had developed with raging slowness over a period of three million years, abruptly became something different. Technical, spiritual, religious, artistic, musical, political, military and criminal abilities emerged and exploded. Ape became Human. Ape became Man. Ape became Woman. We are human because some of us are „schizophrenic‟. In other words, some of us have an „abnormal‟ access to an altered state of consciousness, which both enchants and petrifies the experiencer. „A touch of schizophrenia‟ is associated with exceptional creative skills, both good and evil, and in the footsteps of that extraordinary creativity (a creativity that defines us and separates us from our nearest primate relatives), the human world of intellectual, spiritual and artistic sight moves shockingly but brilliantly onward.
Madness is a truth that involves voices and visions. That „schizophrenic‟ reality is at the sharp end both enlightening and petrifying to the majority of the UK 250,000 „schizophrenics‟. Non-bourgeois vessels of a tortured Odyssey of strange advancement. Madness Is challenging but emancipatory. As David Cooper once wrote in his introduction to the Michel Foucault book Madness And Civilization, „madness has become in our age some sort of lost truth‟. As the reader is aware, most „mad‟ people are not axe-wielding maniacs but gentle and creative folk.
According to Horrobin, the early cave painters of Spain and France, Sir Isaac Newton, James Joyce, Albert Einstein, Kafka all possessed „a touch of schizophrenia‟ and out of that „crippled lunacy‟ a new kind of evolutionary ascent of humankind is born. Such is the nature of progress in the past 100,000 years.
To that list of creative talent, I believe that Dr Horrobin could have added such outrageous voice hearing Prophets of the Old Testament as Job, Amos, Ezekiel and Isaiah. Job, Amos, Ezekiel and Isaiah possessed „a touch of schizophrenia‟. Possibly they possessed what the saints of old called „the gift of tears‟. If any of the aforementioned Prophets of the Old Testament had lived In the twentieth century, they would probably have been labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟.
There appears to be a genetic link between „schizophrenia‟ and genius. For Horrobin, it is no coincidence that Albert Einstein had a son labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟, as was James Joyce’s daughter and Carl Jung’s mother.
Although Horrobin does not state this, it is also significant that certain musical and artistic geniuses of the twentieth century were labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟. This non Horrobin list would Include Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), Syd Barrett (ex Pink Floyd), Peter Green (ex Fleetwood Mac) and Louis Wain („the man who drew cats‟). John Nash Junior, mathematical inventor of game theory and an individual labeled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟, won a Nobel Prize For Peace In 1994. Wilson, Barrett, Green, Wain and Nash are emancipators of lunacy and geniuses of consequence.
Human genius and „schizophrenia‟ began to manifest themselves, according to Horrobin, as a result of evolutionary pressures that triggered genetic changes in our brain cells, allowing us to make unexpected links with different events, an ability that lifted our consciousness to a new intellectual plane. Early manifestations of this creative change include the 30,OOO-year-old cave paintings found in France and Spain.
On a more immediate and less mind-blowing level, I was interested to note in this book that nutritional treatment can „normalise‟ the mood, behaviour and thoughts of the severely mentally „ill‟. Nutritional treatment can significantly reduce violence among prisoners in prisons. Multivitamin capsules containing a mixture of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids from evening primrose oil and fish oil can help the severely mentally „ill‟. EPA fish oil capsules can also significantly help individuals labelled by psychiatry as
„schizophrenic‟. As a voice hearer I can verify that EPA fish oil capsules have significantly helped me in the past six months. EPA fish oil capsules obviously have no unwanted physical side-effects. Fishfood is brainfood.
EPA fish Oil capsules are available for sale from Schizophrenia Association of Great Britain (SAGB), Bryn Hyfryd, The Crescent, Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales LL57 2AG (01248372570). The Importance of EPA fish oil capsules in alleviating „lunacy‟ is well stated in the second half of The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity.
The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity is an important and articulate publication that deserves to be read by open- minded individuals with an interest in emotional well-being, society and progress.
Knowledge is power and in the Epilogue Horrobin rightly encourages mental health service provision to adopt in effect a „whole-body‟ a4p9proach to
mental „illness‟. As a change activist committed to further humanising and sensitising mental health service provision in the UK, I suggest that UK emotional health services adopts a more holistic and progressive approach to mental health matters. Service provision certainly needs to adopt a
„mind/body/spirit‟ approach to mental „illness‟. People are not machines.
According to the World Health Organisation, by the year 2020, more people in the Western world will have mental health problems than physical ailments and this Horrobin book is relevant to the building stones of the future. The Horrobin text humanises and sensitises „lunacy‟, linking mental„illness‟ to creativity and offering practical nutritional solutions to problems of „madness‟. This book is exciting and visionary. In relation to EPA fish oil capsules, the Horrobin text confirms the recent positive findings from Sheffield University. EPA can help individuals labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟. Fish aided the early Christians as they dealt with their voices and visions in the immediate centuries after Christ’s Crucifixion. Fish oil may possibly help similar „failures of convention‟ whether those „failures‟ are labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟, „manic depressive‟ or „depressive‟.
How can a rape victim be a saint, you ask? St Non, mother of St. David was. How can a homosexual be a saint, you ask? St David, Patron Saint of Wales was. How can a virgin be a genius, you ask? Sir Isaac Newton was. How can an adulterer and a murderer have a spiritual significance? King David of the Old Testament did. How can an abuse victim and a prostitute have a spiritual significance? Mary Magdalene of the New Testament did. How can the product of a dysfunctional family ever achieve something in his or her life? Abraham Lincoln did. How can a shabbily dressed and generally reviled individual create anything of spiritual significance? Antonio Gaudi, architect of „La Sagrada Familia‟ in Barcelona did. How can a victim of male rape ever achieve anything with his life? Lawrence of Arabia did. How can a voice hearer create something of artistic merit? Vincent Van Gogh did.
The aforementioned distinguished individuals are extraordinary but the severely mentally „ill‟ are also extraordinary in a musical, literary, spiritual and/or artistic sense. However, I digress from the solid brilliance of Horrobin’s book.
The Madness Of Adam And Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity is humane, intelligent and progressive. Like all significant and pioneering books, it is a text that places its outrageous skull publicly in the block of the guillotine (as if for execution) and defies the blade of that guillotine to fall. Courage is an appealing feature of aesthetic, intellectual and spiritual consequence. Whether that courage belongs to Moliere, Voltaire, Wilde, Samuel Beckett or Horrobin, I care not. Courage is a currency that far out values material confidence or bourgeois veneer. Buy this book or order it through your local library. The book may enrage. The book may shock. The book may inspire. But this fresh- faced book by Dr David Horrobin will not disappoint.
Hywel Davies (Chair, Hearing Voices Network Cymru)
The Madness Of Adam And Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity by David Horrobin published by Bantam Press, 2001. ISBN 0593 046498 £18.99.
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HEARING VOICES PAST AND PRESENT: A USER’S PERSPECTIVE
‘Psychosocial Interventions for People with Schizophrenia’.
Ed. Neil Harris, Steve Williams and Tim Bradshaw, Polygrave MacMillan. 2002
‘If an idea at first is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.’ (Albert Einstein)
In this chapter historical perspectives on voice hearing are reviewed (the hearing of a voice or voices inaudible to others) and a critical examination of whether voice hearing is an abnormal experience, as currently suggested by most psychiatric practice, is conducted. Some of the popular myths about voice hearers and dangerousness are challenged, and perspectives on voice hearing held by voice hearers themselves are considered. It is suggested that mental health services in the United Kingdom adopt holistic, progressive and intellectually creative approaches towards the voice hearing experience.
Voice Hearing Through the Ages
Voice hearing is a phenomena of human experience and is recorded as far back as 10,000 BC (Jaynes, 1976). In early civilisations, voice hearers were often seen as individuals of a religious and/or spiritual significance. Consequently, voice hearers used to hold significant positions in early societies. These voice hearers were seen by their subjects as being in direct communion with the gods or with God by way of their voice hearing experiences. Temples, monuments, murals, statues, figurines and pyramids in Egypt and, for example, in Central America and South America were built in tribute to voice hearers’ ‘divine perceptions’. In an age when the mind was considered to have two chambers, that is to be bi-cameral, voice hearers ruled the kingdoms of the Egyptians, of the Hittites, of the Maya people and of the Incas. These kingdoms were grand and impressive tributes to the world of the supernatural and to the world of the divine. From Turkey to Peru, from Egypt to Mexico, from Cyprus to Central Asia, the leaders of these early civilisations were ‘hallucinatory god-kings’ (Jaynes, 1976). In early societies dating to approximately 10,000 BC, voice hearing was consistently seen as a valued and even divine phenomenon. The thesis of Jaynes (1976) includes the fact that some of the fundamental, most characteristic, and most commonly observed symptoms of florid, un- medicated schizophrenia are uniquely consistent with the bicaneal mind.
In a similar context to the bicameral kingdoms of Egypt, Mesopotamia, of the Maya people and of the Inca people, the heroes of the Iliad and prophets of the Old Testament heard from time to time the voices of gods or the voice of God. Paul Baker quotes the example of the Iliad (Baker, 1995) with reference to the historic link between voice hearing and spirituality. The Iliad, written by Homer, was essentially the story of the Trojan wars. Visions (‘visual hallucinations’) and voices (‘auditory hallucinations’) are both present in the Iliad. Homer frequently describes a Greek god or goddess appearing to a warrior at an extreme moment in the midst of battle, the apparition then tells the warrior what to do. According to Baker, this type of spiritual phenomenon was not simply a literary device but a reflection of the normality and cultural acceptability of hallucinatory phenomena at this period in history. Similarly, the experiences of the Old Testament prophets were not literary indulgences but reflected apparently ‘real’ experiences (Joyce, 1920). The abnormal aural and visual experiences of, for example, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Job and Amos were not literary devices or metaphorical, but rather reflected ‘real’ experiences. If Ezekiel, Isaiah, Job or Amos had been alive in Britain in the twentieth century, they may have been defined by psychiatry as ‘schizophrenic’ .
While voice hearing phenomena was apparently culturally acceptable, it was still regarded as unusual. Many of the prophets of the Old Testament of the Bible were regarded by the majority of their contemporaries as ‘aliens’. Their ‘auditory hallucinations’ and their ‘visual hallucinations’ rendered the prophets of the Old Testament ‘abnormal’. Joyce summarises the changing attitudes towards voice hearing in the following passage;
. . In all early societies, the abnormal mental states of vision and ecstasy were as profoundly impressive to the onlookers as they are to the man who experiences them. Both he and they are convinced that these mysteries are conclusive evidence of intercourse with the spiritual world. . . But now the general attitude towards the attendant circumstances of early inspiration has been completely reversed. The unstable, psychic temperament, with its tendency to fall into trances, instead of arousing respect as. of old, is the subject of suspicion. The fact that any claimant to inspiration was subject to trances and other mental disturbances would, in many quarters today, raise doubts as to his sanity, and would certainly weaken the force of his testimony. (Joyce, 1920)
Voice hearers, since the time of the prophets of the Old Testament, include Jesus Christ, Mohammed, many saints of the early Celtic church, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross. John Milton’s Paradise Lost was, according to John Carey (1999), the product of a series of voice hearing experiences. The artistic work of William Blake as a poet, writer, engraver and artist appeared to have been inspired by ‘hallucinatory’ experiences (Wordsworth Poetry Library, 1994). As a child, William Blake saw a cloud of angels swarming a tree in his native London and, at one stage of his adult life, he believed that the Archangel Gabriel was speaking to him in the
garden of his home. Blake received virtually no formal education and his written and visual work appears to have been inspired by voices and/or visions. In 1825 Blake met the diarist Crabb Robinson, who wrote the following about him: ‟Shall I call him, an Artist or Genius – or Mystic or Madman? Probably he is all‟ (ibid.). Blake‟s perceptions as a creative force appear to have been inspired by „auditory and visual hallucinations‟. There have been other voice hearers in the twentieth century of creative note. They include Carl Gustav Jung, Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Zoe Wannamaker (Baker, 1995). Certain twentieth- century voice hearers who have been labelled by psychiatry as ‘schizophrenic’ include Louis Wain (‘the man who drew cats’), John Ogden (the English classical pianist), Peter Green (the founder member of Fleetwood Mac), Syd Barrett (a founder member of Pink Floyd) and Brian Wilson (a founder member of the Beach Boys). Voice hearing is not necessarily an interminable imprisonment for the individual labelled by psychiatry as ‘schizophrenic’. Certain twentieth-century ‘schizophrenics’ have achieved something positive out of something negative in their lives. David Helfgott, the Australian classical pianist was a primary inspiration of the award-winning 1997 film ‘Shine’. Labelled by psychiatry as having a ‘schizo•affective’ disorder, Helfgott subsequently conducted a world tour of his music as a concert pianist. Janet Frame, the award-winning New Zealand writer transformed her experience of ‘schizophrenia’ through writing (Frame, 1990): John Nash Jr, game theorist and mathematical thinker, was once labelled by psychiatry as ‘schizophrenic’ yet, in 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. The book A Beautiful Mind (Nasar, 1998) chronicles Nash’s life. There are other ‘schizophrenics’ who have achieved despite rather than because of, their circumstances.
Psychiatry has had a troubled and controversial history in terms of describing certain human behaviours as pathological. The nature and definition of mental illness has varied according to the prevailing values of the day. Black slaves who ran away from their duties were deemed by psychiatry at the time to be mentally ill. This psychiatric ‘illness’ was known by psychiatry as drapetomanIa (Thomas and Sillen, 1972). Irascibility or impertinence on the part of a black slave was also deemed by psychiatry to be mental illness. This particular psychiatric „condition‟ was known as Dysaesthesia Aethiopica. Similarly, vagrancy in Victorian Britain was seen by psychiatry as a mental illness. Epilepsy was once regarded by psychiatric orthodoxy as a mental illness. In the Soviet Union of the twentieth century, certain political dissidents were deemed by Soviet psychiatry to be mentally ill. Similarly throughout the world homosexuals, lesbians and bisexuals were once regarded by traditional ‘western psychiatry as mentally ill.
Voice Hearing as a Normal Phenomena
Voice hearing can be described as the hearing of a voice or voices inaudible to others. For most of the twentieth century, voice hearing was usually regarded by psychiatric orthodoxy as a symptom of ‘schizophrenia’. However, most voice hearers in contemporary society have no contact whatsoever with psychiatric services (Tien, 1991). As stated by Baker (1995), hearing voices is not even a particularly uncommon experience. According to recent research (Tien, 1991) 10-15 per cent of the general population hear a voice or voices over a long period, with 2.3 per cent of individuals (Tien, 1991) hearing a voice or voices at anyone particular time. The impact of these voices fall into two types, helpful and unhelpful. Most voice hearers, 66 per cent in Tien’s study, perceived the voice or voices as positive or helpful (Eaton et al., 1991), describing the voices as familiar and recognisable. This category of respondent appeared to believe that the purpose of the voices is strengthening and raising their self-esteem. The voices are experienced as life-enhancing and as an understandable aspect of their internal selves. A minority of voice hearers, 33 per cent in Tien’s study reported distress or impairment of functioning as a result of voice hearing experiences (Eaton et al., 1991). A minority of voice hearers experienced the voices as aggressive and negative from the onset. For these people the voices are hostile and they are not accepted as part of themselves. They suffer from negative voices that can cause chaos in their minds, demanding so much attention that communication with the outside world is extremely difficult. However, in most circumstances, voice hearing is manageable. Tien’s research (1991) illustrated a voice hearing prevalence of 2.3 per cent among the general (non-clinical) population. If this figure is generalised across the entire UK population, about 1.3 million people would hear voices at anyone time. It is evident that many/most of these individuals do not consult mental health professionals about their experiences as presumably they experience no distress or manageable distress as a result of voice hearing.
Interesting holistic and progressive work has been carried out in Europe with voice hearers in recent years. The pioneering and emancipatory work of Romme and Escher (1993) is to be applauded by anyone who wishes for psychiatry to approach mental health in a humane, sensitive and historically valid fashion. In the key words of this ground-breaking book, ‘Accepting Voices. . . is “a new analysis of hearing voices outside the illness model. This original research is a powerful challenge to popular stereo-types and psychiatric orthodoxy which inhibits rather than stimulates personal growth”‟ (Romme and Escher, 1993). For Romme and Escher, psychiatry has to move on from its biochemical obsessions and become a more life- enhancing and more empowering profession.
Marius Romme’s decision to approach the issue of ‘schizophrenia’ and voice hearing in general in a new, yet old light was triggered by Patsy Hage, a Dutch psychiatric patient, who emphasised to Romme the reality of her voices. It was Hage, influenced by the writings of Julian Jaynes, who understood the historical context of hearing voices. Moreover, Hage had the controlled intelligence to, in effect, ask Romme, her psychiatrist, „If you believe in the reality of God, someone whom you have not seen or heard, then why don’t you believe in the reality of my voices?‟ In due course, Romme and Hage appeared on a popular television programme in Holland to talk and to encourage discussion about voice hearing. They got a huge and overwhelming response with 450 Dutch television viewers contacting the television programme stating that they were voice hearers. Most voice hearers, Romme was astonished to learn, had no contact whatsoever with psychiatry.
The Hearing Voices movement in Europe grew partly as a result of Romme’s pioneering work with voice hearers in the second half of the 1980s. Today there are more than seventy-five Hearing Voices groups in the UK. Romme’s person-orientated work with voice hearers in Holland paved the way for the published work of Paul Baker (1995, 1996) and Ron Coleman and Mike Smith (1997) in the United Kingdom. Similarly John Watkins (1996, 1998) in Australia takes the ramifications of Romme and Escher’s work in Holland to a new audience in the Southern Hemisphere. Philip Thomas (1997) rightly calls for a more balanced dialogue between voice hearers and psychiatrists.
In the late twentieth century it could be argued that voice hearers are making a modest „come-back‟. Aidan Schingler, a voice hearer, held an exhibition of his three-dimensional „schizophrenic‟ work at Durham Cathedral in August 1997. Ron Coleman, a voice hearer, has lectured extensively in Europe and North America on the issue of voice hearing. Neale Donald Walsch (1995), a voice hearer, produced international best sellers out of his early morning „conversations with God‟.
The struggle to „normalise‟ voice hearing can be compared to the collective struggle of earlier decades to combat sexism, racism and homophobia in Britain. Barriers to understanding voice hearing include differences in perception, differences in concepts, different ideas about treatment, unawareness of personal history and lack of an awareness of the relationship between voices and everyday life (Remme and Escher, 1993, pp. 251-2).
„Resignation and fatalism are not the only available responses to hearing voices‟ (p. 255).
Myths and Facts About Voice Hearers
Many mental health professionals may have unhelpful stereotypes of voice hearers as a result of the media-induced panic concerning voice hearers and violence. This may prevent them challenging such unhelpful stereotypes among the general public, carers and even voice hearers themselves, so it may be us5e6ful to try and put the record straight:
Approximately 95 per cent of homicides committed in Britain are committed by people who do not have mental health problems (Audit Commission, 1994).
The vast majority of people who use mental health services are not violent (ibid.).
Between 1974 and 1994 the rate of homicide doubled, yet there was no increase in homicides in the same period by people with mental health problems (ibid.).
In terms of homicide the general public is far more at risk from young men under the influence of alcohol than from people with a mental health problem (ibid.).
The random killing of a stranger by a psychotic individual is a rare occurrence (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1996).
A person without a mental health problem is 400 per cent more likely to commit an act of homicide that a person with a mental health problem (ibid.).
15 per cent of people with a depressive illness commit suicide (ibid.).
10 per cent of ‘schizophrenics’ commit suicide (ibid.).
A person with ‘schizophrenia’ is 100 times more likely to commit suicide than to commit an act of homicide (ibid.).
One is thirteen times more likely to be killed by a stranger without mental health problems than by a stranger with mental health problems (Department of Health, 1997).
How the Mental Health System Should Respond to Voice Hearers
Hearing voices is an historical phenomenon that dates to at least 10,000 BC (Jaynes, 1976). In early societies, voice hearers used to be significant individuals. Then after about 1300 BC, according to Jaynes, the view of voice hearing as evidence of spiritual phenomena began to change, and with it the status of voice hearers in society. People who hear voices have, of course, continued to influence society. Most voice hearers are not even in contact with psychiatric services (Tien, 1991). Reported presence of verbal hallucination is clearly not always indicative of mental disorder. Along with other providers of mental health service provision, psychiatry needs to adopt an approach of empower•ment rather than control with regard to voice hearers. As many voice hearers have been significant writers, artists and musicians from history, I contend that it may be appropriate for mental health service provision in the United Kingdom to encourage music5a7l, literary
and artistic creativity in the mentally marginalised. The organisations Core Arts, Survivor’s Poetry and Sound Minds of London undertake this kind of creative work with the mentally marginalised (Core Arts, 1999; Survivor’s Poetry, 1999; Sound Minds, 1999).
It is now necessary for mental health service provision in Britain to adopt a more holistic and life-enhancing approach to voice hearing. This new approach should ideally involve historical, economic, personal, social, cultural, sexual and spiritual perspectives. If appropriate, it should involve a literary, artistic or even musical dimension as part of personal growth. Recent publications from the Mental Health Foundation, in the field of holistic consumer wishes (Mental Health Foundation, 1997) and complementary therapies in the alleviation of mental distress (Mental Health Foundation, 1998) are promising contributions to the amelioration of the position of the mentally ostracised, voice hearers included, in contemporary British society. There has been an enormous increase in the popularity of complementary therapies in recent years across society, and it could be that complementary therapies may be able to help those in severe mental distress (Wallcraft, 1999). Historically, voice hearers have sometimes been regarded as saints, prophets, geniuses, mystics, gurus and/or shamen within their societies. United Kingdom mental health service provision should approach the care and treatment of these individuals with an appropriate level of respect.
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The content of the book is intelligent, sensitive and progressive. It outlines the importance of an holistic approach to mental health and it ultimately encourages consumers of mental health services to read more about their particular emotional condition.
As far as I can see, there is one spelling mistake (page 143, line 12; „compliment‟ should read be printed as „complement‟).
I am not sure but I did not regard Dr David Healy as am „Irish Psychiatrist‟ (page 19, line 10). I understand that he is based as an academic in Bangor University in North Wales. However I may be wrong in my comments about Dr David Healy.
The publication could have been further improved by including photographs connected to the text (photographs of / connected to John Watkins, Professor Manfred Bleuler, Soteria Project, Diabasis) and a list of mental health organisations addresses, telephone numbers and websites pertinent for mental health consumers, carers, families and health professionals in New Zealand, USA, Australia and UK.
This book brings to my attention three publications of interest: „The Last of the Lunatics‟ – J Cawte, „The Seduction of Madness‟ – Edward Padvoll,
„Mythology of The Soul‟ – H G Barnes.
Unfortunately, two important and brave path-breaking books omitted from this publication are „The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity‟ by Dr David Horrobin and „Accepting Voices‟ edited by Professor Dr Marius Romme and Sondra Escher. The two omitted books are, in my assessment, the two most courageous psychiatric publications published in Europe and in English since R D Laing‟s „The Divided Self‟ of 1967.
In summary, Mr Watkins has taken many years to write this book and it is a publication of which the author is rightly proud. This book is an intelligent, sensitive and progressive contribution to mental health and community care matters primarily in Australia. It‟s mind – body – spirit approach to mental health is clear and exhilarating as a progressive force for better in Australia and, by implication, elsewhere.
„Healing Schizophrenia: Using Medication Wisely‟ well complements Mr Watkins‟s previous books: „Living With Schizophrenia‟ and „Hearing Voices: A Common Human Experience‟. I believe that more people in Europe should be aware of the writings of Mr John Watkins.
The one sadness that I have regarding the book under consideration is that the book contains no reference to the published work of Dr David Horrobin and Professor Dr Marius Romme.
People labelled by psychiatry as „schizophrenic‟ have a profound responsibility to read „Healing Schizophrenia: Using Medication Wisely‟ by Mr John Watkins of Australia.
Pembrokeshire Hearing Voices Group January 2007
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Coleman, R and Smith, M. (1997) Working With Voices, Gloucester, Handsell Publications.
Jaynes, 1. (1976) The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Romme, M. and Escher, S. (eds) (1993) Accepting Voices, London, Mind.
Thomas, P. (1997) The Dialectics of Schizophrenia, London, Free Association Books.
Tien, A.Y. (1991) ‘Distribution Of Hallucinations in the Population’, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 26, 287-92.
Audit Commission (1994) Finding a Place: A Review of Mental Health Services for Adults, London, HMSO.
Baker, P. (1995) The Voice Inside: A Practical Guide To Coping With Hearing Voices, Gloucester, Handsell.
Baker, P. (1996) Can You Hear Me?, Manchester, Hearing Voices Network.
Carey, 1. (1999) ‘Paradise Lost’ (Millennium Masterworks), Sunday Times Culture Magazine, 8 May, p. 10. .
Coleman, R and Smith, M. (1997) Working With Voices, Gloucester, Handsell Publications.
Core Arts (1999) Information Brochure, London, Core Arts.
Department of Health (1997) Progress Report of the Confidential Inquiry Into Homicides and Suicides by Mentally Ill People, London, HMSO.
Eaton, W.W., Romanski, A., Anthony, J.C. and Nestads, G. (1991) ‘Screening For Psychosis in the General Population With a Self-Report Interview’, Journal of Nervous And Mental Disease, 179,689-93.
Frame, J. (1990) An Autobiography, London, Women’s Press.
Jaynes, J. (1976) The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Joyce, G.C. (1920) Old Testament Prophecy. Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, T. C. & E. C. Jack.
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Mental Health Foundation (1998) Healing Minds, London, MHF. 61
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‘Making Sense of Voices: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals Working with Voice Hearers’ – Marius Romme and Sondra Excher, Mind, 2000
‘Working with Voices: Victim to Victor’ – Ron Glenan & Mike Smith,
Handsell Publications, 1997
‘Understanding Voices: Coping with Auditory Hallucinations and Confusing Realities’ – Marius Romme, Handsell Publications, 1998
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‘Hearing Voices: A Common Human Experience’ – John Watkins, Hill ofContent, 1996 (available from MIND)
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Paul Baker, Hearing Voices Network, 1995
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‘Don’t have to live like a refugee’
Tom Petty, American singer/songwriter
‘My race began as the sea began, with no nouns, and with no horizon, with pebbles under my tongue,
with a different fix on the stars.’
‘Ddechreuodd fy hil fel y mor, heb enwau, a dim gorwel,
gyda cerrig man o dan fy nhafod, gyda golygfa gwahanol ar y ser.’
Derek Walcott, Nobel Laureate
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Reconstructing Beneficence: Mental Health and Progress (1989 – 2008) Haulwen Warlow – 01437 563306