haunted by voices

Article today 23 Aug 2012 in The West Australian

From Western Australia, a nice snippet on the Hearing Voices approach and how its working out in Australia.

Lest you think that if a person hears voices then  they must be ill, then think again. Just because a person hears voices does not mean they are ill. However if a person who does hear voices  becomes isolated as a result of their experience then they likey will become very ill indeed, as would you.

Millions of us hear voices and experience other stuff that others may not understand. Some of it is tough, really tough but its made all the more tough if those around us get their freak on and try to fix us , or  treat us like we are the point source of imminent and inevitable world destabilisation. We’re not, but we are [probably] having a tough time.

About two thirds of those who hear voices regard it as a positive experience. Even those who have some of the most difficult voice hearing experiences can learn to make their own experience easier to live with, even transforming their lives- if they can find people who are willing to simply listen.


Haunted by the voices

Cathy Saunders, The West AustralianAugust 23, 2012, 11:29 am

Sir Anthony Hopkins heard them. So did Martin Luther King, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc and Socrates.

These well-known identities have all reported hearing voices – a phenomenon which is reasonably common, with 4-10 per cent of the population admitting to it.

It is an accepted fact of life among various indigenous groups, including North American Indians and Aboriginals, and its prevalence worldwide prompted the establishment late last century of a Hearing Voices Network.

People who experience it are called voice hearers by the hearing voices movement, although many may also have visual, smelling, feeling and other sensations.

In psychiatry, people who are disturbed by voices are described as having auditory hallucinations and those who have visions as having visual hallucinations. They may be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The Hearing Voices Network was introduced in Australia in 2005 by the Richmond Fellowship of WA (RFWA).

According to Hearing Voices Network Australia (HVNA), taking into account all voice-hearing experiences, only a small number of voice hearers experience distressing, debilitating voices, with others describing it as a positive spiritual, cultural, psychic or everyday experience. Voices can be male, female, familiar, unfamiliar, friendly, helpful, angry, cruel, commanding, highly critical or undermining. They can be sounds, music, chanting or shuffling. They can stop for years and then return.

Joe Calleja, chief executive of the RFWA, said research shows that a lot of distressing voice hearing results from early childhood trauma, including sexual and physical abuse, or emotional trauma such as bullying, neglect, abandonment or the sudden death of a loved one. In one well-documented case, a man used to hear the voice of a priest who had sexually abused him.

RFWA and the HVNA offer training to professionals as well as voice hearers and their family and friends. The voice hearers can be helped to learn how to cope with the problem.

“People feel for the first time as though they can have discussions about their voices without the fear of being judged ‘mad’,” Mr Calleja said.

“When people learn skills to control their voices, their quality of life and mental health is improved, often hospitalisations are reduced or even eliminated, levels of depression are reduced and suicidal ideation diminishes. Then people can get control over their lives, get jobs, establish relationships.”

For some people labelled “treatment resistant”, medication does not necessarily help and in some instances contributes to other voices emerging.

In an Irish study reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry in April, more than one in five children aged 11 to 13 reported hearing voices. While just over half of these were found to have a non-psychotic psychiatric disorder such as depression, the other half did not have any underlying problem.

Mr Calleja said the way children were dealt with if they heard voices often completely missed their needs and compounded their distress.

HVNA manager Lyn Mahboub said children often explained their voices as those of “imaginary friends”, which could be quite a normal experience and did not necessarily lead to distressing voice hearing.

“It is not scientific and there isn’t a blood test to find out (what is going on) and so what people go on are self or other reports,” she said.

In studies by Dutch researcher Sandra Escher, it was shown that children distressed by their voices could be helped, largely when parents and others supported them to deal with any current life problems they might be experiencing.

The three phases of voice-hearing recovery are described as startling, organisational and stabilisation – the stage at which the person has learnt to understand, organise and cope with their voices.

RFWA has received funding from Lotterywest to start up Voices@Work, which helps people who hear voices to get or stay in a job.

“A lot of people are not going anywhere near employment because of the stigma associated with their problem and the distress associated with their voices,” Mr Calleja said.

RFWA has worked with about 25 people who are voice hearers and supported them to the point where they are significantly more prepared to seek work because their confidence has built up.

“Here is a group in our community that is completely invisible or, if they are visible, they are seen as really crazy, very sick people who are written off,” Mr Calleja said.

“In fact, many of them can be given the opportunity to live a productive life in the community.”

Voices@Work project worker Amanda Olsen said that by sharing her own voice- hearing experience, she was able to assist others and give them hope that they could one day gain the employment they wanted.

RFWA/HVNA run a two-day training course every month on the hearing-voices recovery approach as well as three-hour Snapshots on the Hearing Voices Approach. They have been attended by mental health workers, psychiatrists, nurses and others. RFWA/HVNA also offer free family information evenings.

The website for RFWA is rfwa.org.au and for HVNA is hvna.net.au. The phone number for both is 9350 8800. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14


World Hearing Voices Day – Friday 14th Septemper 2012

The Hearing Voices movement is celebrating 25 years. Events are talking place round the world, this one is in Toronto …you really don’t want to miss it…

facebook   World hearing voices day 1012 – Toronto

more… including how to register

                       World Hearing Voices day  Toronto

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2 Responses to haunted by voices

  1. Hi Susan. I was bullied at school – it’s where at least one of the voices that I hear comes from – and it’s the one I’ve had the most difficulty living with I recently did some work with that voice – and the latent emotions from that experience- and the voice has been quiet for ovea year. About 80% of voice heareres who’ve done th ekind of work I did repoet that some kind of distressing early life event was at the root of their voice hearing. Being bullyied is known to be one kind of event/experience that can lead to a person hearing voices…… see the work of Sandra Escher for more.Kevin


  2. susan Bevis says:

    My younger daughter was severely bullied at school and ended up hearing voices however the minute she got referred to the children’s hospital a psychiatrist prescribed Rispiridon. This in fact made her gain huge huge weight and she begged to come off it. Even on a low dosage of 1mg it was hard to get her off these drugs and this shows how dangerous they are. My daughter however survived this experience because I paid for a private school that specialised in acting which was her main interest. She has gone from strength to strength. This shows the answer is NOT harmful anti-psychotic drugs but the right support and environment do count – the school was not in the area where we live and they had a counsellor. The school was a full time stage school and from there my daughter went on to a boarding school and university but she was lucky – she was under the children’s sector and not on one of the apalling adult wards in the UK. She now does not hear voices but nevertheless was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Unfortnately my elder daughter – something terrible happened to her and she has been on about 15 different mind altering anti-psychotic drugs. She has also been diagnosed with Schizophrenia but I have also seen the diagnosis of Aspergers. When are these professionals going to learn that it is extremely harmful to diagnose someone with a severe illness when there are no scientific tests whatsoever to back their claims and it is guesswork. The psychiatrist at a top leading world renowned hospital in the UK called Bethlem Royal Hospital said he likes to start afresh with patients. How on earth can you do that when you need to look at the files and see what happened to that person. A person suffers depression usually because of something bad happening to them or trauma, the loss of someone close, bullying is a huge factor. It is not always the parents but the family are the first to be scrutinised by social services and what should be given is counselling, CBT and a close look at diet and nutrition – there could be food intolerance or high copper levels and these things can be rectified with correct nutrition as Dr William Walsh, Dr Ann Blake Tracy and many other specialists speak out in this respect. There are too many doctors who just like to push drugs because it is the easiest option. The drugs have caused my elder daughter to suffer from hearing voices as she did not hear a single voice before and I totally discount their diagnoses as they have not given me any proof of how they have come up with them. This is rubbish. When I see two people in my family – one other person got better without the drugs in the first place and was very sensible and refused them all. My younger daughter was on a very low dosage and I managed to get her off but I was slated by these so called professionals. My elder daughter was in bed at midday with a doctor called out. She had everything going for her at one time but now I am seriously concerned for her life.


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