What a day ! …..World Hearing Voices Day 2012, in Toronto

Huge thanks to everyone who helped us put on our first event celebrating World Hearing Voices Day here in Toronto.


Early bird stands in line to get caffeine

My day started 3am, an hour earlier than my alarm’s, eager looking forward to getting to the CBC. My 5:15 taxi dropped me at Front & John before the first coffee shop had opened – so I joined the queue of eager caffeine-aters waited a few minutes.

Mark Roininen and I had been invited to pop in to Metro Morning, Toronto’s biggest morning radio show. It may have been only for a for few minutes but over 200,000 people got to hear a different kind of conversation about voices; about how hearing voices is normal, about 10% of us hear voices in many forms – two thirds have no problems and see it as useful, meaningful part of their lives-  its not all scary, is often good and is understandable as a normal human experience; and people can, maybe with a little , maybe with a lot of help, learn how to live with it in a different way. There are many ways to lern to take some power, even a little, and build from there. and perhaps the biggest change we need to make is to make it easier for people to talk without being afraid of what we might do to them.

Many thanks to Mary Wiens and Matt Galloway and the team at Metro Morning for creating such a wonderful opportunity for the many voices of Toronto to be heard – and for us to be part of that too.

Podcast : click link to hear podcast….


Not so long march through waking city

Buzzed, we set out on the not so long marchthrough the city waking to a new day. After stopping off for  breakfast  we arrived at Friends Meeting Place to join the team and set for the day ahead.

Morning:  It’s a ‘ard life bein’ a worker

My work background is in change management, organizational learning and team and leadership development. I learned two key things from that

  • we can’t serve everyone’s needs at the same time.
  • The world does not change like it does on TV: there are no instant makeovers in the real world, whatever that is.. 

For two years I’ve been connecting, observing and probing, asking questions, listening  and figuring out where I think we can best “intervene” in the system to offer stuff – resources ideas, events that help people connect, explore.

This module is one result of that and is designed to offer individual workers a place from which they can begin to change the way they do their work: able to incorporate ideas like hearing voices into their daily practice; and offers the invitation for them to join in a community of learning of like-minded workers doing something similar.

Here’s the thing:- there is no thing, at least no “one” thing, no magic, no trick, no one step process: real change is complex and messy: it takes lots of small changes and sustained effort by each of us.  We need to engage in exploring, reflecting, making sense – figuring out their way through assembling and sharing resources, telling stories of flops and f**k ups and successes too: and accepting both and learning from both.

The way I figured, one of the most important changes we can address is the way individual workers approach their work. I’ve met so many and in many different roles who express frustration at wanting to change how they work but feel unsure: of how to start; unsure if they are allowed to; and unsure of “what to say” “what not to say”…

I made the choice to use our first  World Hearing Voices Day in Toronto as an opportunity to focus on that and to offer something designed with exactly that in mind. This  morning session was designed for specifically “workers”: people working in many different roles including Peer Support, Registered Nurse and Church Minister-  the common factor being they are called upon in their work to support people who hear voices.

And this was a training session designed specifically to help people working in these positions to begin to understand hearing voices – what we mean by the words, the range of experiences people have; how with some imagination they can connect their own experience with some of those experiences; and how they can draw on their own resources, to steal themselves to be themselves, make their job a little easier.

Workers often feel trapped between what they feel they want to do and the many rules and ideas they need to tiptoe round to do their job and stay employed. It can be a difficult place. This session is designed to help address exactly that difficulty: offer some insights and ideas how it is possible to negotiate that space .

The session was oversubscribed by 100% , we’ll be running a second session soon and we’ve already had inquiries about taking the training into agencies.


Afternoon:  Community Info session

The afternoon session was opened up to include anyone who wanted to come. We had about 80 people who had gotten through torrential rain and a transit near-meltdown.

We were joined by friends in Europe who came to share with us some of the different ways people work with voices, learn from that experience and share with the world. It’s a strange paradox that It may be difficult, even impossible, to connect with people in our own neighborhoods to talk about voices but there is a worldwide community that does a lot of its work on line – on Facebook and Skype,

Learning from Voices: Rufus May, Flo, TopDog and DIF

Rufus and Flo told the story of how over a period of about two years they had worked together to build a new relationship with the voices Flo hears through a process of dialogue that recognizes that there is meaning in even the difficult voices; and it takes acceptance, assertion and negotiating to communicate in all relationships. Rufus shared a little of how the  ideas were brought to Hearing Voices by Dirk Corstens and came from couple s therapy, based in ideas of how we all experience “parts” that have different perspectives and sometimes “voices”. Some of us experience those voices more extremely or more vividly.

Even with tech problems that meant listening over a fragmented and our guests speaking to an audience they couldn’t see, the story of how Flo and her voices have been able to change the way they communicate and work together is deeply inspirational. Even more so is, their courage to share their story with the world.   When, early in 2012, one of Flo’s voices joined the Intervoice forum on Facebook: “speaking” in his own voice a revolution started, other voices joined in and are now able to communicate with each other – we even have a Facebook support group that is exactly for that..

Denmark – Aarhus

Elisabeth Svanholmer, Anders Schakow, Trevor Eyles [who was actually in Stockholm having been talking at their World Voices Day event] – talking of how work had progressed in Denmark, particularly in the town of Aarhus where with a population of about 300,000 they have a network of eight voices groups where people share their experiences and support each other as part of the city’s social psychiatry services. Denmark now has has almost 100 groups across the country.

Elisabeth, Anders, Trevor, thank you.


Voice Collective Camden, London – Rachel Waddingham

Rai Waddingham joined us to share some of her work, talking about the Voice Collective project that is bringing peer support to young people in London who hear voices. Voice Collective provides a simple framework for young people and they do most of the rest with a wonderful energy and creativity; producing wonderful materials which they share and make available on their website

The project is now being emulated in other centers: Elisabeth, Trevor and Anders from Denmark will be working with Voice Collective to set up a similar Project starting, again, in Aarhus.

Rai talked about the short but very powerful info film “A Little Insight” which offers a wonderful description of the experience of hearing voices. We showed the film as our program finale.

Rai, thank you, for everything you do, and for joining us to share it with us..


Epilogue and Entertainment

We finished off the day with a meal, conversation and entertainment – music and a sing a long with Heinz Klein, and comedy from Emma, Hugh, and Mack. Thank you, all.

A great day.

An event like this, and a day like this doesn’t happen without a lot of work and a lot of people helping to make it happen. And it is only the latest in a string of days like this: visible evidence of all the work that a handful of people connected with The Leadership Project have put in over many years to bring the Hearing Voices approach to mind, in Toronto.

It is just short of two years since I was at a similar event in the same room at which I got to meet Ron Coleman and Paul Baker. Inspired by them, I declared for the first time that I her voices, have done for as long as I remember. Sometimes it’s difficult for me, but mostly it’s a ball, without my voices I likely wouldn’t have met many of the great people I now know around the world, some of whom you got to meet today, and wouldn’t have had this day..

If you don’t hear voices I’m happy for you but, really, I do think you’re missing out.

Thank you all.


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2 Responses to What a day ! …..World Hearing Voices Day 2012, in Toronto

  1. What a day indeedy – BRAVO


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