Hearing Voices Day 2
Thursday night, back in our hotel room after another fascinating day at the World Hearing Voices Congress 2013.
The main purpose of the ‘Hearing Voices’ movement is to change mainstream Western paradigms of mental illness. It includes demystifying schizophrenia, offering holistic health solutions & hope to voice hearers, removing the stigma attached to psychotic labels and educating the public.
What really touched me today was the number of people willing to be real, presenters included. It does seem that most individuals involved in mental health have a personal reason for it, just as I have!
So it was wonderful to notice the overall level of openness.
Here are some of the gems gathered along the way:
- From a panel of indigenous doctors and healers (Native American, Maori & Aboriginal): ‘There is no such thing as mental illness, only spiritual illness. Every voice is either a cry for help, or direct help from Spirit’.
- From Dr Sarah Bendall, researcher on childhood trauma & psychosis: Children who have been abused have a much higher risk of psychosis: Sexual abuse x2 (double the risk), physical abuse x3, emotional abuse x3, bullying x3 and neglect x3 (Ref. Meta-analysis of 41 studies – Varese et all, 2012).
- From Grandmother Gnin, Aboriginal Elder: ‘I just couldn’t live without my voices. They tell me how to live my life.’
- From a panel of doctors, psychologists, therapists, neuroscientists and other researchers discussing whether voices are internal (shadow material) or external (i.e. ancestors, spiritual guides or nasty entities): whatever people believe is their truth and no one has a right to argue with it. As therapists, our role is to help distressed patients cope with their experiences, not make them wrong in any way.
- Therapeutic tools discussed in various presentations: Healing circles, counselling from psychologists vs doctors, voice dialogue, role playing, art therapy, dance & movement therapy, new narratives and more. For some people, medication is the best option provided it’s their choice.
- From a panel of doctors and patients discussing the pros and cons of medication: There’s no right or wrong. If you need help, find out what works for you. Choose your doctor wisely. Ask lots of questions about side-effects. Get a second, third or fourth opinion.
- News from the United Nations (March 2013): Compulsory medication is a violation of human rights. Patients have a right to choose their treatment.
- From the Hon. Mary Wooldridge, Victorian Minister for Mental Health: The government is changing the Mental Act accordingly.
- And from Dr Lewis Mehl-Madrona (Native American Psychiatrist): “You should adopt a psychiatrist. Take them out for lunch and educate them about voices, well maybe not if you’re their patient!”
- And also – “Probably 70% of psychiatrists would privately agree with what’s said here. But they have to follow the system, which treats unusual experiences as pathological.”
I could keep going.
One thing is for sure. The Australian medical system might not be perfect, but compared to most other countries, we’re very lucky!
I’ll conclude on this subject tomorrow, after another full day of learning, growing and meeting amazing people.
Until then, enjoy whatever comes your way!