The following is an excellent interview conducted by Chris Barton in today Saturday 4th Junes Weekend Herald in New Zealand. Chris interviewed Ron Coleman here in Auckland and attended one of the workshops the Hearing Voices Network held there.
You can see the article on the New Zealand Heralds website here.
Here is the article below:
“You have voices telling you to kill yourself. Do you ask them why?”
No, they don’t listen.
“If I told you to go and stand in the middle of the road, you wouldn’t do it.”
No, if you told me to I wouldn’t.
“If I asked you to do it you would want a reason, but you don’t want a reason from the voices.”
Yes I do.
“Then ask them.”
This is not one’s idea of a normal conversation, but for the participants it makes perfect, potentially life-altering sense. Ron Coleman has just begun a workshop at Western Springs Community Hall on a radical self-help technique called voice dialogue.
In a five-minute conversation with a young woman he draws out, to her considerable surprise, an outline of her situation. She hears two negative middle-aged voices – one male, the other female. The male voice is worse.
She is also dealing with drug addiction, but that’s not the cause of her voices. They began when she was 10.
She has never asked what the male voice is called.
The woman is clearly astounded by Coleman’s revelation that she can ask her voices for information. “Nobody’s suggested that to you before,” he tells her, “because we are caught in the world of voices rather than having dialogue about it.”
Coleman, diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1982, should know. He spent 10 years in and out of British psychiatric hospitals, including six as a mostly compulsorily “sectioned” in-patient. During that time he was heavily medicated with a range of antipsychotic drugs and given 40 sessions of ECT.
Today he lives happily with his wife, family and seven voices. The workshop at the Western Springs Community Hall is part of a global grassroots organisation known as the Hearing Voices Network.
“What we try to do,” he tells the Herald, “is help people live with their voices.”
Born in Dundee, Scotland, Coleman turned his life around in 1991 when the Hearing Voices Network was just getting under way in Britain. He’s since gone on to become a key figure in the network and travels the world spreading its message and governing principle: “It doesn’t matter whether we conclude our voices are coming from ourselves or whether they are the voice of God or the voice of demons. We accept the diversity of everybody’s experience,” he tells another voice hearer.
“Do you hear a lot of voices?”
I hear angels.
“Are they all positive?”
Yes but sometimes my voices worry me because I worry about whether I’m saying it or whether the angels are saying it.
“So what is the purpose of angels?”
To guide me.
“So how do you test what they are saying is from the angels themselves?”
I say, ‘Is that the angels there?’
“And they say yes?”
Yes. But sometimes I don’t hear at all. I get scared because of some of the things I hear. I get scared because I don’t know if the devil can lie to me.
Coleman points out that that the devil was an angel – “an archangel and he was tossed out of heaven”. A good test as to whether an angel was talking, he suggests, would be if it asked her to do something to harm herself or anybody else. If it did, he says, that would be inconsistent with angels.
“See, I’m not going to change your mind whether there are angels or not. The only thing I’m interested in is whether it’s good for you. That it works for you.”
The network believes that auditory hallucinations or “voice hearing” shouldn’t be seen as something pathological that needs to be stopped, but rather as something meaningful and tied to the hearer’s life story. This tends to be at loggerheads with conventional psychiatry. Support groups around the world run by voice hearers for voice hearers openly challenge the standard psychiatric relationship of expert physician and psychotic patient, but increasingly some psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are seeing merit and logic in the Network’s approach.
Coleman says his recovery began when, at his first Hearing Voices group, someone told him his voices were real. “What I’d been told in the psychiatric system was that they weren’t real, they weren’t really there. That I had to ignore them and I couldn’t get involved with them. When they’re real it means you can do something about them.”
Hearing voices is like reading a really good book when you can hear the author’s characters. “As you read you can create the characters in your head. Imagine that externalised. That’s how it is with voices. You actually hear them.
“They have different characteristics. They speak with different accents. They are male or female. They are positive and negative.”
Hearing voices isn’t as unusual as we think. Many will have experienced it in the threshold consciousness between waking and falling asleep. There are also numerous examples of well-known and accomplished voice hearers throughout history.
“The Bible is written by voice hearers,” says Coleman. Think Moses and the burning bush and Jesus wandering for 40 days and 40 nights, hearing the devil’s temptations.
The roll call of other voice hearers is as variable as Winston Churchill, Socrates, Galileo, Pythagoras, Carl Jung, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, Mohammed, William Blake, Zoe Wanamaker, St Francis of Assisi, Leonard Cohen and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
Voice hearing, as Coleman’s own story demonstrates, is often linked to unresolved personal trauma. In his case he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest when he was 10 years old.
“My explanation for voices is that I created them because I needed to deal with what was going on.”
Coleman’s voices didn’t actually arrive until he was adult. Prior to that he had a different coping mechanism – rugby. “I played as prop and when I went into the scrum I’d put the face of the Catholic priest who abused me on to my opposite number and I’d just try to kill the guy.”
Then he broke his hip and couldn’t play rugby anymore.
“I ended up not having the outlet, but still having the priest in me as a constant reminder of everything and no way to get rid of my anger. Eventually it came out as voices.”
One of the first voices he heard was the priest telling him it was his fault. “That I led him into sin and I should burn in hell”.
Another voice was his father. “I felt like I’d failed my family so I had my father’s voice saying things like: ‘You’re no good. You’re f***ing worthless. You’re a failure’.”
Then there was the voice of first wife Annabelle who died suddenly. “She used to tell me to kill myself so we could be a family again. It was more about the fact that I missed her so much.”
Negotiating a way to cope with his voices took a year. With Annabelle he realised he could be with her as a voice. “I said: ‘I don’t need to die to be with you. I can be with you now – let’s talk’.” He’s since remarried and now has agreement with Annabelle only to talk to her on anniversaries.
His father’s voice changed from negative to positive after his family finally learned what happened to him as a child through a 1995 BBC Horizon documentary, Hearing Voices. His father asked why he never told him about the abuse. Because, said Coleman, he didn’t think anyone would believe him.
“My dad said yes he would, and he would have killed the priest.”
Coleman says he still hears the priest’s voice from time to time when he’s overworked and tired. What does the priest say now? “But I still think it was your fault.”
Coleman takes it as a sign that he needs to take time out and go fishing. “As soon as I hear him I tell him to f-off. ‘I’m not going to listen to you. I don’t need you. You have no power any more’.”
Getting to that point – where he could refuse to hear the priest – required dealing with his own guilt and shame. “I can’t change the past, but I’ve resolved my feelings about my own abuse.”
Another voice Coleman calls teacher. “That was my own voice – a voice trying to keep a bit of sanity in my mind. It’s always a voice of reason. In a funny sort of way I was externalising my own self rather than having inner dialogues. I tend to externalise it now, because I’m so used to hearing voices.”
There are three other positive voices – one called Dave who was someone he knew who died, and two other he keeps to himself. “The reason I don’t talk about them is I share an awful lot of my life and those are voices just for me.”
As well as providing support for voice hearers, the Hearing Voices Network is also a human rights movement – to protest at the way those diagnosed with schizophrenia are treated and to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. Coleman says he’d like to see professionals in mental health systems spend much more time listening to people before treating them.
“I would like acknowledgement when the treatment is not working that we do something different rather than give them other drugs or just increase the drugs.”
He wants proper informed consent too – people told about the reduced life expectancy downside of antipsychotic drugs before they are given them.
He believes that if there was a properly controlled test – comparing outcomes for voice hearers engaged with the network and those using the mental health system – the network would come out on top. “We’re saving lives.”
Coleman wears his diagnosis on his skin – a tattoo on his arm reads “Psychotic and Proud”. He did it to have a constant reminder of where he came from.
“It says I refuse to be ashamed about what happened to me. I refuse to be ashamed of my diagnosis and I refuse to be ashamed of the fact I was a psychiatric patient.”
Voice of reason
* The Hearing Voices Network, founded in Britain in 1988, developed from the research of Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme.
* It has since grown into a global self-help organisation, active in 20 countries, for people who hear voices.
* Members advocate the use of techniques employed by those who have successfully coped with their voices. This can include acceptance and negotiation with the voices.
* Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ has about 100 members and holds support groups in West Auckland, Grey Lynn, Glenfield, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington.
* Approximately 75 per cent of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, 20 per cent of patients with mania and 10 per cent with depression hear voices.
* About 30,000 New Zealanders are affected by schizophrenia.
Find out more on Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ
There is an excellent radio interview with Voice hearer Eleanor Longden on Ron Jonsons show.
Click on this link to hear it.
Eleanor goes into great detail of her own experiences hearing voices. Her personal account gives a great insight to what it is like.
Nicely put together with music and poetry as well.
Please note: The original Link I had posted, expired, I have now amended the above to show an active link t Ron Jonsons website that contains the interview. Thanks Rich! Here it is again : http://www.saminnes.co.uk/Jon_Ronson_On_Voices_in_your_head.mp3
Here is a link to the Radio NZ interview on Thursday 25th November with Dr John Read
It is an excellent interview in response to an interview on Radio NZ with a Doctor whose visit to New Zealand was sponsored by the drug companies.
As always Dr Read is eloquent in his summation of the issue of medications and their use for treatment of those who hear voices.
This shocking story was in the New Zealand herald today. Highlighting the shocking lack of rights that people with mental illness are sometimes faced with when in care.
4:00AM Thursday Nov 05, 2009
By Patrick Gower
The Ombudsmen’s report claims several mentally ill patients have been treated inhumanely, including one who was restrained and kept in seclusion for almost six years.
The public watchdogs found the patient in virtually constant “seclusion” – solitary confinement in a bare room – at the mental health unit of a district health board.
Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem would not name the board last night, but said it claimed the detention and use of restraints was required because the patient was likely to attack other patients and staff.
But Ms Wakem said that after her office became involved, the patient was moved to a more suitable facility.
“Why nobody thought to look at that and make that assessment before we arrived on the scene is a cause for concern,” she told the Herald.
The patient was one example of “potential cruel and inhumane treatment” the Ombudsmen identified during the first nationwide investigation of detention facilities, done over the past year.
The investigation also found a young intellectually disabled patient being kept in unwarranted and lengthy “seclusion”, and another mental health patient who had been kept without any consent for years.
Ms Wakem said the health boards responsible took action immediately.
But the Health Ministry’s director of mental health, Dr David Chaplow, said last night that he knew nothing of the cases and would be ordering an urgent report.
Dr Chaplow said he knew of one patient with a mixture of autism, intellectual disability and mental illness that was particularly challenging, “but I have never known a case in seclusion for six years”.
The annual mental health services report says 1395 patients were secluded for between two minutes and 365 days in the past year.
Dr Chaplow said there was now a “sinking lid” policy on seclusion, but it had a place in mental health care.
The Ombudsmen’s investigation covered prisons, mental health units, immigration detention centres, court cells and youth facilities.
It was detailed in the Ombudsmen’s annual report, issued yesterday, and also raised concerns that prisoners were not given electric fans to control cell ventilation or temperature.
It said in excessive temperatures the lack of fans could amount to “cruel” or “inhumane” treatment.
It noted this was more likely with increasing lock-down times and double-bunking as the prison population reached crisis point.
Corrections prison services manager Karen Urwin said the department had looked into buying fans for every prison cell, but had decided it was not an effective use of taxpayers’ money as extreme heat waves were rare in New Zealand.
* Case studies
CASE 1: Mental health patient in “virtually constant restraint and seclusion for nearly six years”.
CASE 2: Young intellectually disabled patient kept in “seclusion” for lengthy period.
CASE 3: Mental health patient “treated for some years without any apparent consent of any kind
This was on TV3 news tonight. It highlights a terrible side effect that can be experienced from this “FDA Aproved” drug. THE article on TV3 site highlights how this drug is now used for many children who are diagnosed with ADHD.
In Janssen’s own clinical trials, 43 children developed the abnormal breasts
THIS ARTICLE HERE ALSO MENTIONS THE DETAILS
The risk that boys taking the atypical antipsychotic Risperdalmight grow breasts was known as far back as 2004. The Wall Street Journal reports that the FDA heard about this worrying side effect in a meeting on Risperdal last week:
The FDA’s Tom Laughren, who runs the psychiatric medicines division, didn’t see a need to strengthen warnings on the drug, despite calls to do so from some doctors at the meeting.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit is being sued by a lawyer who represents six boys who developed breasts. The news comes on the heels of revelations that J&J showered money on a conflicted Harvard doctor, Joseph Biederman to produce studies showing a need for antipsychotics in kids. Two of the six boys in the suit required mastectomies to get rid of their bosoms.
But this effect, which includes lactating breasts in some boys, was first reported in the Miami Herald and then again in the Washington Post as far back as the summer of 2004. You can see the Post item here.
Antoinette R. Appel, a Plantation neuropsychologist, studied the records of about 50 South Florida foster children who had been prescribed Risperdal.
She said many of the children developed severe side-effects, including obesity, lethargy, lack of concentration, hormonal disorders and the inappropriate development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as lactating breasts in boys or young girls.
One boy had to got to court in order to win the right to stop taking Risperdal:
One of the clinic’s most high-profile clients, identified in court papers as M.W., won a Florida Supreme Court ruling that child welfare authorities cannot lock up foster kids in psychiatric hospitals without a hearing. M.W. had developed lactating breasts after doctors forced him to take Risperdal, court records show.
THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD WED 26th NOVEMBER 2008
SEE THE ARTICLE ONLINE AT THE NZ HERALD SITE HERE
“Tighter regulation of pharmaceutical advertising to doctors is needed to protect the public, a conference in Wellington will be told today.
George Jelinek, Professor of Emergency Medicine at Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, will tell the 25th annual scientific meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine that much greater transparency is required.
“The pharmaceutical industry is awash with profit,” he says in notes released ahead of his speech.
“In fact, the combined profits of the top 10 drug companies in Fortune 500 has been greater than the other 490 companies’ profits combined.”
These profits, he said, went to shareholders, research and development, marketing, salaries, and “educating doctors”.
There was a loophole in the FDA regulations in that pharmaceutical companies needed to show only that a “new” drug was effective, and not that it was more effective or even as effective as current drugs.
“Conflict of interest abounds, not only for individual clinicians in respect of payments and gifts they receive, but in organisations and journals,” Professor Jelinek said.
“Drug company-sponsored research is four times as likely to be favourable to a company’s project than is independent research.”
Professor Jelinek said in an Australian survey of more than 800 medical specialists, 12.3 per cent reported that papers they “wrote” were written in the first draft by industry specialists.
Also, 5.1 per cent reported that they did not publish research findings which were negative.
Marketing of drugs was often disguised as education, and doctors attending pharmaceutical events were more likely to use the product, even without scientific evidence, he said.
“Some large, heavily promoted drugs have subsequently caused great damage to an unsuspecting public.
“Widespread conflict of interest results in over-prescribing many medicines of dubious benefit, and that conflict of interest leads us to neglect health in favour of pharmaceuticals.”
Professor Jelinek also recommends new guidelines for academic centres and opinion leaders, with bans on gifts, food, and travel, and with an independent office of medical education to oversee funding.
“Doctors should consider whether to accept anything from drug companies, including gifts, research money, or honoraria,” he said.
Published in the New Zealand Herald Wednesday 26th November PG B3
A 10 point check-list
1. Try not to over react, although you will be understandably worried, work hard not to communicate your anxiety to your child.
2. Accept the reality of the voice experience for your child: Ask them about their voices, how long they have been hearing them, who or what they are, do they have names, what they say etc.
3. Let your child know that lots of children hear voices and mostly they go away after a while.
4. Even if the voices do not disappear your child can learn to live in harmony with his/her voices
5. It is important to breakdown your child’s sense of isolation and differentness from other children. Your child is special, unusual perhaps, but normal.
6. Find out if your child has any difficulties or problems that they are finding very hard to cope with and work on trying to fix these problems. Think back to when the voices first started, what was happening to your child when they first heard voices? When did the voices arise for the first time? Was there anything unusual or stressful that might have occurred?
7. If you think you need outside help, find a therapist who is prepared to accept your child’s experience and work with your child in a systematic way to understanding and cope with their voices better.
8. Be ready to listen to your child if they want to talk about their voices and use drawing, painting, acting and other creative ways to help them describe what is happening to them.
9. Get on with your lives and try not to let the voice experience become the centre of your child’s life or your own.
10. Most children who live well with their voices have supportive families living around them who accept the experience as part of who their child is. You can do this too!