Stories to Awaken the Inner hero

We have completed our series of workshops, Stories to Awaken your Inner Hero in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland with Dr Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy. What a great workshop it was. We discovered the healing power of story, the emotional power of using metaphor. The gift it was to be able to listen to someones life challenges, and turn it into a Heros story, using metaphor. The story of Pack rat and First mother, told by Lewis, reminding us all, just like the Heros, not to give up. That by creating a metaphorical story we we become the hero and succeeds, our brains, and spirits began to start searching for a way to create that success on a deeper level.

Uplifting, and engaging.

Here is an interview with Lewis and Barbara before the workshops, talking about it.

Heroes story interview Lewis Mehl Madrona & Barbara Mainguy

Lewis Mehl Madrona: Definining Coyote Psychotherapy

Lewis Mehl Madrona and Barbara Mainguy are coming to NZ. The HVNANZ has received finding from the ASB community trust and Lotteries Commission to help with this. Yay. So I am going to bombard you with some of the great articles he has written in the meantime.

We are collating the workshop info and will get the fliers out in the next few weeks.

Here is an article on Coyote Psychotherapy

http://www.futurehealth.org/populum/page.php?f=Defining-Coyote-Psychother-by-Lewis-Mehl-Madrona-Body_Community_Healing_Health-141102-270.html

We are just completing three presentations at the Institute for Psychiatric Services, which is the community and public psychiatry meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. We had the opportunity to present our approach to the psychotherapy of psychosis, and had realization that we could own the name, Coyote Psychotherapy, which is, as we playfully told people, indigenous inspired, body-oriented, narrative and social psychotherapy, and still a little more, because Coyote can never be completely contained.

In relation to my indigenous origins and to our active practice of Native American spirituality, whatever we do is indigenous inspired. The concepts are powerful and important. All healing is spiritual. To thrive we need the help of the spirits. Community is everything. Healing is energetic. Faith and the power of belief matter enormously. Relationship is everything. These are the core concepts of our work. Beyond this, traditional elders have inspired everything we do. I think of Vern Harper, an elder we love in Toronto. Vern is well past 80 years old. Every week he ventures into the worse part of Toronto to sit and listen to the homeless, the alcoholics, the drug addicts, to anyone who wants to talk. Vern has a profound respect for the humanity and the value of all these people. He doesn’t need them to change for him to love them. He just does. Vern is our hero. We strive to achieve the radical acceptance that Vern demonstrates.

Immediately that calls into mind John Charles. While I lived in Saskatchewan, John Charles was my hero. I’ve written about John before. For years he was an Anglican priest. Then, he was discovered to have brain cancer, so severe that the conventional doctors gave him 30 days to live (how they figure these things out is beyond me). John realized that Christian spirituality was not going to heal him. He went to see a woman who practiced the traditional Cree medicine and did everything she said. Within the 30 days in which he was supposed to do, he recovered and the tumors disappeared. That put John into a quandary of faith. He had been Anglican for most of his life, but he was Cree, and the Cree spirituality had healed him. One night he had a vision. He saw four elders smoking pipes around Christ on the Cross in each of the four directions. He was told distinctly that it was all one. He could be traditional and Christian all at the same time.

I spent many a Sunday at John’s house on Sturgeon Lake Reserve, being doctored, taking people to being doctored, sitting in ceremony with him, and feasting of fresh caught sturgeon. I also inspire to be as loving and as accepting as John. When someone missed ceremony because they had been drunk the night before, John sent his helpers to go get them. That’s when they really need to be in ceremony, John said. All were welcome at John’s. For John and Vern, and all the other elders I have known, nothing could shock them. Whatever people had done, they were welcome. So we aspire to put these principles into practice in our work with people who suffer emotionally.

Psychotherapy has always been a problematic word for me. What indigenous elders do is healing. I’d like to use the term healing, but it has such a New Age connotation, that it alienates many people. In this strategic move to be somewhat mainstream, the term is psychotherapy for the work we do with people with psychosis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and the like. Yet, what we do is not just mental. We involve the body — sometimes directly through touch therapies, as with Cherokee bodywork, which I have learned, or in conjunction with colleagues who do osteopathic manual medicine. In preparing for our talks, we learned that a French psychoanalyst, Janet, preceded Freud by three years, and was very much involved in including the body in the healing of emotional pain (psychotherapy). Freud made the decision to reject the body for the “talking cure” and his followers went along, though at least one scholar points to the split with Wilhelm Reich (a good Mainer) as Freud’s impetus to abandon the body entirely.

In the apprenticeship I undertook to learn Cherokee bodywork from traditional practitioners, I learned that life is energy. When energy moves, health follows. When energy is blocked, disease ensues. Our osteopathic colleague, Magili Chapman-Quinn, described how opiate use makes people’s tissues feel as if they are stuck in concrete or think glue. These insights are important for healing.

I believe that psychiatry must reclaim the body. We should all be doing our own physical examinations on patients. We must overthrow the Victorian notion that all touch is sexual. The physical examination is a special moment of intimacy with patients. In examining their bodies, they often reveal concerns that would otherwise go unnoticed. I have found cancers on physical examinations that were being concealed by the patient. I have found skin diseases, the evidence of abuse in the form of bruises and other injuries, and, in the process of interacting through the exam, people have told me what is really bothering them. I believe psychiatrists must be doctors, too. We must stop hiding behind the Cartesian mind-body split and take control of the body.

When I present this idea at meetings, the inevitable response comes that we will be sued and charged with sexual assault. I note that it is we who have taught patients to think this way. Of course, every branch of medicine has doctors who abuse patients, and we are no exception, but the functions of the mind are manifest in and through the body, and we must examine the body to truly understand them. So, this is the sense through which our work is embodied. We understand that life is embodied and physical and that we have bodies so that we can be easily found (David Granger). Our bodies dutifully record the effects of the events of our lives. To recover from the effects of the events of our lives, we must address the body. We can do that through direct, hands on massage and manipulation, as in Cherokee bodywork, osteopathy, or tui nan. We can do it through embodied movement and dance therapies. We can do it through energy medicine, as in Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, or joh rei. We can do it through acupuncture or acupressure. But, however we do it, we must acknowledge the effect of a difficult life on the body (as well as the mind) and we are served if we liberate the body from the effects of these stressors and traumas even as we free the mind.

Our therapy is decidedly narrative in the sense that we understand that humans and stories are interchangeable. We are the stories that live through us. We live through the stories we enact. Stories are the default mode of the human brain. We evolved to make story about the many people in our lives. Stories help us keep track of our many social relationships. They inform us about how to seek the good life and how to interpret the events of our life. Stories help us construct meaning in our lives and find a purpose to occupy our time. Stories are very important.

We also recognize the healing power of community. I have written before about the power of being with others when having an experience. Gene induction is so much more powerful when we are in the presence of others than when we are alone. This seems to cut across the animal kingdom, and is called the audience effect in biology. Other people give us our sense of meaning and purpose. They help us create shared stories, which we feel are greater than us (transpersonal). They give us opportunities to be altruistic, to share, to demonstrate caring for others, and to learn and be supported from others. Our preferred hypothesis about brain development is the social brain hypothesis in which social experience is required to connect the circuitry from its rudimentary origins.

But there’s more. Coyote has a thing or two to say. Coyote teaches us the value of humor and fun. We want to enjoy each client. We want to have something positive to say about them, and to them. Coyote teaches us to find the humor in each encounter and to have fun in our work. Over time I will write more about narrative work, but it is decidedly fun. When we can represent each of the voices inside a person’s head with a puppet, and when we can get the puppets talking to each, it’s inevitably lots of fun, and also very helpful. We are breaking the conventional psychoanalytic mold (as it was taught when I trained in the 1870’s) and are finding the humor in life and its vicissitudes.

At the psychiatry conference, we presented outcome data. If people can stick it out with us for at least six months, they usually improve (over 90%). That was much better than I experienced in community mental health work. When I worked there, I tracked my patients, and, on average, no one improved (of course, some did, and some got worse, but the net impact was zero). So, we are arguing that we appreciate and enjoy our clients, we have fun with them, and they get better. However, it takes more than six months for serious problems, and sometimes years. Nevertheless, the joy is there.

Hearing Voices considered normal

Here is an excellent article. Hopefully it shows that slowly perceptions about hearing voices is changing!  Below is only an excerpt, see the whole article on the link here:

http://wellcometrust.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-inner-noise-sublimation/

In this article, Marika Ciuffa discusses proposed changes in the way psychiatrists understand and interpret auditory hallucinations.

“Have you ever heard voices or sounds that no one else can hear?”

We are in the middle of a clinical interview at an ordinary hospital, it doesn’t matter which one. A while passes before any answer. Suddenly the man in front of the doctor starts to look down and his voice begins to tremble.

Fear of being judged; concern about consequences. With this simple question comes an emotional load that hinders communication and sometimes makes it difficult to find the correct diagnosis. It is frightening to speak about voices, but the thing that scares the most is the mark of mental illness.

The standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals around the world is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The fifth edition (DSM-5) will be published in May 2013. It has been in development for a number of years and a few but significant potential changes seem set to break with the past and bring a breath of fresh air to many people’s lives.

Hearing voices – that is, the perception of voices in the absence of auditory stimuli – can be normal. This is one of the ground-breaking changes to have emerged from the advance publication of the DSM-5 Status of Psychotic Disorders. In contrast to the previous edition (DSM-IV), hearing voices will no longer be considered sufficient and specific for the diagnosis of schizophrenia. It is a big step forward for people who live with voices every day but do not intend to give up their right to be called “normal”…

…But symptoms like auditory hallucinations, taken alone, are not necessarily a sign of schizophrenia. In fact, they can be found in other diseases such as brain tumors and epilepsy, and also occur in around 10 to 15 per cent of the general population. They are an example of phenomena called “out-of-the-ordinary” or “psychotic-like” experiences, which do not always lead to psychiatric conditions and can sometimes be a positive part of human experience.

Hallucinations are also very common in people who experience trauma, loss or other stressful events. It is important, therefore, to evaluate them in the appropriate context, relating their meaning to the individual’s underlying problems (for example, there is a strong association between psychotic-like experiences and severe childhood sexual abuse).

A part of normal life?

How can people manage with the unusual experience of hearing voices? A study conducted by Dr Heriot-Maitland and colleagues, published this year in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, evaluated the nature and context of psychotic-like phenomena in people who did (clinical) or did not (non-clinical) go on to use mental health services. People in both groups experienced these phenomena during periods of significant negative emotion, sometimes associated with isolation and concern about the meaning of their existence. However, the non-clinical group showed greater ability to make sense of these experiences in their lives, considering them to be transient and enhancing, not dangerous.

International associations like Intervoice (International network for training, education and research into hearing voices) share this non-pathological vision of the phenomenon, fighting against prejudice and the stigmatisation of mental illness. They aim to support people to manage this “normal though unusual variation in human behaviour”, underlining that “the problem is not hearing voices but the inability to cope with the experience”.

However, while it may be true that hearing voices does not necessarily imply mental illness, particularly in childhood, in other cases we could risk underestimating a considerable problem if people choose not to seek help or advice. It shouldn’t be forgotten that individuals with psychotic-like experiences are at significantly increased risk of clinical psychotic disorders, which can have severe effects on health and quality of life.

See the whole article at the link above.

BBC videos on isolation and hallucinations

Found these fascinating videos , they are excerpts from a BBC documentary, where they placed people in isolation ( in darkness) for 48 hours. Many started hallucinating. The Dr commented that in a lack of sensory environment, the brain stilll has to function, so it continues to create and work regardless.

So how helpful is solitary confinement for mentally ill one must ask? Many voice hearers will attest to the fact that isolation, and lack of sleep, and also late at night voices are often worse( when awake in the dark)

Here is the first http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfdN_megX4E&feature=fvwrel
in the second one you see them experiencing hallucinations http://www.youtube.com/watch?

v=0nnekxGE0nM&feature=fvwrel
The third one, they are tested afterwards, and their mental capabilities have deteriorated http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ewX-4eIomM&feature=relmfu

With more talk in mind – Dr John Read

This is a great article Id like to share

Sydney Morning Herald, the Age Melbourne

Any review of Victoria’s mental health services must look beyond psychiatry.

John Read

September 15, 2011

Opinion

SERIOUS problems in Victoria’s mental health system have been revealed recently in The Age. The important thing now is to find solutions. In doing so we should remember that although Victoria is in the spotlight, similar ”crises” occur regularly all over the world. Perhaps this is because Victoria is not alone in having a system based on fundamentally flawed principles.

 Mental health services have become increasingly dominated by psychiatry’s ”medical model”, which claims that feeling depressed, anxious or paranoid is primarily caused by genetic predispositions and chemical imbalances.

 This has led to alarming rises in chemical solutions to distress. In New Zealand, one in nine adults (and one in five women) is prescribed antidepressants every year.

 The public, however, in every country studied, including Australia, believes that mental health problems are caused by issues such as stress, poverty and isolation. The public also prefers talking therapies to drugs and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

 Research suggests the public is right. For example, the single best predictor of just about every mental health problem is poverty, followed by other social factors such as abuse, neglect and early loss of parents in childhood, and – once in adulthood – loneliness and a range of adverse events including losses and defeats of various kinds.

 Meanwhile, reviews of studies on anti-depressants (which only recently have been able to include those previously kept secret by drug companies) conclude that they are superior to placebos only for those at the extreme end of the ”most severe” group of depressed people. This represents less than 10 per cent of the people who are receiving these drugs.

 A recent Cochrane review (the type most highly regarded in the scientific community) for risperidone, a leading anti-psychotic drug, ”suggests that there is no clear difference between risperidone and [a] placebo”.

 A placebo (from the Latin meaning ”I please”) is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed the talking therapies are effective partly because, if done well, they too instil hope and expectations of recovery.

 The problem is that psychiatric drugs often have serious adverse effects. Anti-psychotics, for instance, can cause rapid weight gain, loss of sexual function, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegeneration and reduced life span.

 As previously reported, my review of ECT studies (with Professor Richard Bentall of Liverpool University) found that this treatment is ineffective for most recipients and frequently causes permanent memory loss. This in itself can be depressing.

 ECT also has a slight but significant risk of death, most frequently from cardiovascular failure.

 Inpatient units are equally ineffective and can also be damaging. When will we learn that putting large numbers of extremely distressed people in the same building is not a good idea?

 What I conclude from all this is that any review of mental health services in Victoria, or anywhere else for that matter, should probably be led by anyone other than a psychiatrist – and certainly not in Victoria’s case the state’s Chief Psychiatrist, whose job, according to Dr Ruth Vine herself, is “to watch over how the system is functioning”.

It is unfair to expect Dr Vine to take an objective view on the failure of the system for which she is responsible. That lack of objectivity is amply demonstrated by her claims that ECT is “safe and effective” and that the problem is the public’s “negative” views. Perhaps a lawyer from the Mental Health Legal Centre might be a good choice.

 Any review should include mental health service users and their families, and other mental health professionals, including social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists and nurses.

(Psychiatric nurse Philip Lynch reminds us that there are thousands of staff “who quietly continue to do important work every day, often in challenging circumstances”; so why only listen to the doctors?)

 The review should also investigate what percentage of people receive drugs, and what percentage receive safer, more effective alternatives, and how a better balance can be achieved. It must scrutinise the contact and transactions between psychiatrists and drug company reps and consider ways to reduce or eliminate these, and as well find ways to reduce the pressure on psychiatrists by helping them feel OK about sharing decision-making. When things go wrong, as they inevitably will sometimes, everyone should share responsibility, and support one another.

 The review would need to explore the ”recovery model” recently introduced in many other countries, including New Zealand. (No, I am not saying New Zealand is superior to Australia – except, of course, when it comes to rugby.)

 Further, the review would need to learn from the many innovative non-government organisations, such as Voices Vic and Mind, and study ways to prevent mental health problems developing – perhaps by focusing on providing safe and nurturing environments in the first few years of life. Also, simply listen to the public.

 Finally, The Age can assist by reporting the issues without exaggerated headlines such as “1000 DEATHS”.

 Dr John Read is a professor of clinical psychology at Auckland University. He advises that no one should reduce or come off medication on the basis of information in this article but should, if they have concerns, consult the prescribing doctor.

 http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/with-more-talk-in-mind-20110914-1k9m2.html

 

David Healy and Robert Whittaker Coming to NZ September 2011

Some of you may have heard of David Healy before, as Richard Bentall spoke about his book “let them eat Prozac”. Casper – www.casper.org.nz are bringing both him and Robert Whittaker to New Zealand for Friday 2nd September 2011. Registrations close AUG 19 so get in quick!!
 
 
Here is a link to his website
 
Also accompanying him is Robert Whittaker- here is a link to a video of him speaking.
Very fascinating video I might add.
 
I have also imbedded another video on Robert Whittaker below
CASPERS CONTACT DETAILS TO BOOK A SPACE ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Phone: 09 442 1581 Mobile: 021 066 1872 Email: maria@casper.org.nz www.casper.org.nz

 

 

 

Get to know your voices over a cup of tea

The following article was on Psychminded UK. See the original article here

 

Get to know your voices over cup of tea or cake, psychologist advises people with psychosis

June 17, 2011
by Angela Hussain

…….

People with mental health problems who hear voices should have “get to know” appointments with their voices over a cup of tea or cake, a clinical psychologist has advised.

Service users, including those diagnosed with psychosis, should organise set times in comfortable surroundings to listen and converse with their voices.

This can enable a person to better understand what or who their voices represent, says Dr Rufus May, a pioneer of innovative non-medical and non-drug approaches to understanding and treating psychosis and other mental health problems

Dr May’s advice is part of new online handout he has written on how people who hear voices, particularly those that are negative or abusive, can “change the power relationship” with their voices.

Dr May advises people who hear distracting voices to: “make an appointment with your voices for a set period of time for example half an hour or an hour….Try to make it a welcoming atmosphere.

“Some people have found it helpful to make a cup of tea and have some cake or a candle lit to help make the atmosphere hospitable.

“Some Buddhists even offer voices some cake to eat! If the content is difficult to listen to or is complicated, try writing it down.”

The approach of Dr May, who works for Bradford District Care Trust’s assertive outreach team, is highly-regarded by many in the UK mental health sector. But some doctors have accused him of causing “unquantifiable damage” to patients.

Dr May’s handout includes advice on

* Getting to know a person’s voices, including information on their sex and age and whether they are judgmental

* Mind-strengthening exercises, including drawing, painting, Sudoku, guided visualisations, meditation, and prayer.

* Listening to voices. This includes attending to their symbolic meaning and writing letters to people represented by voices to address ‘unfinished business’.

* Talking or “dialoguing” with voices

* Working with the emotional issues the voices convey, such as fearful memories, shame, guilt and self-criticism

Dr May writes: Changing the power relationship with challenging voices so they are not dominating your life is possible but it takes time.”

Read for yourself:
Changing the power relationship with your voices – online handout by Rufus May

Conversation with ourselves- an interview with Ron Coleman NZ Herald.

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

www.hearingvoices.org.nz  part of international organisation Intervoice, www.intervoiceonline.org