Radio Interview with Eleanor Longden on Jon Ronson On

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

Should Suicide be reported in the media?

There has been a lot of discussion about this in the media lately. Should it be reported. Many families would like it to come out in the open. to be reported, so that people can learn more about it. So that families can see the warning signs and learn what they may be able to do to help a loved one , family or friend if it happens.

There was an interesting article in the NZ Herald today about this. Written by a mother of a young man who commited suicide- Sally Fisher. You can see the whole article here on the NZ Herald website

Here is an excerpt: 

“Suicide is a devastating, tangible measurement of the ultimate failure of our mental health services.

I believe that with adequate, equitable services and education, many of these suicides are preventable. A reduction of these figures will reflect an improvement of overall care.

Society rationalises its guilt over these deaths by associating them with negative labels such as drug taking and schizophrenia, although a high proportion of such deaths have no such associations.

All of us have the potential to become suicidal given the wrong set of circumstances, although people have different thresholds as with other illnesses. Ideology drives that these deaths are inevitable and unpredictable yet advances in knowledge contradict this.

As with all illnesses early intervention makes a huge impact on outcome. Mental illness is just the same. Advancements in knowledge and medication make it imperative that this is instituted so that, as has happened with other illnesses such as asthma, the outcomes are markedly improved.

There is a failure to think of mental illness in the same way as other “physical” illnesses. This detracts from rationale management.

The prime example of this is the ideology that suicide is unpredictable. It is as predictable and preventable as a stroke or heart attack, if the warning signs are acknowledged and acted on. This can be achieved by education.

Although there has been progress in the promotion and recognition and community acceptability of mental illnesses the services to manage them have not been put in place.

In particular, the availability of psychological and healing environments in a holistic sense have been reduced, with an increasing emphasis on drug management which may be inappropriate or detrimental.

I believe that suicide should be discussed and reported.”

I have started a thread on on HVN forum would love to hear what you think?

Spirit Possession, Theology and Identity- a Pacific Perspective.

Some of you may be interested in this book. I know I would like to read it.

See the details and introduction here on   http://www.atfpress.com/atf/images/toc_spirit_possession,_theology_and_identity.pdf  

 It talks about Maori and Samoan view of spirits, the Spirits in the bible, Spirits through the lens of history and theology. There are sections by Henare Tate,Helen Bergin, Laurie  , Elaine Wainwright and many others   The cover says this ”

Growing contemporary interest in spirit possession prompted eleven past and present faculty members of the University of Auckland’s School of Theology and 2 recent post graduate students to offer essays that explored the reality of spirit possession in Oceania today.”

 I think it is great to have a thorough exploration of a subject where a lot of people have only horror movies to use as reference of such an experience.  The truth will set you free…

Cultural Perspectives on Hearing Voices June 26th 2010

The Hearing Voices Network are holding an afternoon on Culturual Perspectives on Hearing Voices. We have three great speakers. David Lui I have heard before at a conference. A very interesting speaker on the Pacific Island view of spirit and spirituality in general. He has a great piece in the book Penini Uliuli. You can read an excerpt from the book here

Sneh Prasad has a great deal of knowledge on the ‘Oriental’ Perspective. I spent some time with her when we were planning an article for the website based on a previous talk I had attended. You can see that article here 

Ivan Yeo will talk to us about the Chinese view of psychosis.When I asked him what he would speak about he said this: Chinese see health as a single entity instead of the Western medical model of dualism, which is physical and mental health. Chinese culture has been strongly influenced by Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. How do such perspectives influence the view of mental illness and mental health?

We would really like to have a speaker on the Maori perspective , but have not been able to find anyone who is willing to talk to for us.

However all in all it is looking to be a great afternoon. It will be held at Connect SR 215 Wairau Rd Glenfield from 1pm to 4pm.

All are welcome to come along. But please book, so we know the numbers for afternoon tea. ctc details and our flier can be downloaded from our website www.hearingvoices.org.nz

The Hearing Voices Network aotearoa NZ will hold their AGM afterwards.

Mobile Phone apps for hearing Voices?

There is an interesting article on Mobile phone and therapy by Michelle Trudeau here

Here is a small excerpt on Hearing voices from it

One of the most intractable mental illness afflicting one percent of the population is schizophrenia. It’s for these patients that University of Pennsylvania researcher Dimitri Perivoliotis is developing innovative mobile technologies.

Palm-sized computers that chart a patients moods and activities, for example. And a digital watch that has personalized scrolling messages. The messages on the watch, for example, can instruct the patient on stress reduction exercises, like deep breathing or muscle relaxation, in order “to reduce the stress triggered by their voices,” Perivoliotis says.

“One of our patients came in with chronic, constant auditory hallucinations (i.e.; hearing voices) that really controlled his life,” Perivoliotis recalls. “The voices would threaten him that if he would go outside and do fun things, then terrible, catastrophic things would happen to him. He felt really enslaved by them. He felt no sense of control whatsoever.”

So the therapist taught the patient a few simple behavioral exercises to reduce the severity of the voices. It’s an exercise called the ‘look, point, and name technique.’ Perivoliotis explains. “When a patient starts to hear voices, he applies the technique by looking at an object in the room, pointing to it, and naming it aloud. He repeats this until he runs out of things to name (e.g., “phone, computer, book, pen…”).

Perivoliotis reports “the technique usually results in reduced voice severity (i.e., the voices seem quieter or pause altogether), probably because the patient’s attention is redirected away from them and because speaking competes with a brain mechanism involved in auditory hallucinations.”

So the mobile therapy watch that this patient wore was programmed to remind him a few times a day to practice this technique to control the voices.

“It really did the trick,” Perivoliotis says. The voices were dramatically reduced. “It kind of broke him out of the stream of voices, and his internal preoccupation with them.”

Exercises like these not only give the patient temporary relief from distressing symptoms, but importantly, Perivoliotis adds, “They help to correct patients’ inaccurate and dysfunctional beliefs about their symptoms — from, ‘I have no control over the voices’ to, ‘I do have some control over them.'”

As a therapist treating patients with schizophrenia, Perivoliotis finds the mobile technologies extremely useful.

“It gives me an additional source of rich information of what the patient’s life is like between sessions,” he says. “It’s almost like an electronic therapist, in a way, or a therapist in your pocket.”

Fascinating.

Giving Voice to the Void

I read the keynote speech from Karlo Mila-Schaaf that she presented at the Building Bridges Conference in Wellington.

An inspiring story it tells of some of her own experiences , her diagnosis with mental illness and her recovery.

She has kindly allowed us to place it on our website. You can read it by clicking  here.

Here is a little excerpt:

How do you explain why voices are talking to you from under the floor? How do you make sense of dreaming in ways so real that it does not feel like a dream, that you are being burned or hung in front of a large, maddened crowd, in Mala’ekula every night? (Mala’e kula is the Tongan royal burial ground).
How do you explain having the voices of your friends and enemies in your head, saying things louder and clearer than anything else around you? How do you make explain the fact that you can hear the pigs and farmyard animals around your house in Tonga talking to you in ways that you understand?
How do you explain people’s faces contorting and shape-shifting into other things? The Maori psychiatric nurse, for example, who shakes his head and he turns into a ruru, an owl, right in front of you? None of this makes any sense according to anything you have ever known or understood to be true. When you see your grandmother kneeling on a tapa, greeting the sun and you run out of your house to see her, forgetting that she is dead, and wondering, when you run outside and see no one, you’re wondering, what is happening to you?

My sister told me that someone she knew was hearing voices and she didn’t know how to deal with it, or her. What was the best way to react, she asked me. I said to her, “Don’t tell her the voices are not real”. It’s not helpful. It never helped me. The voices were there. I could hear them. Being told that I was delusional was not helpful. It just undermined the truth of my own experience. “Tell her that that sounds very frightening,” I said. “Tell her, that if that was you, you’d be freaked and frightened and that she is being very brave, dealing with this, because it must be impossibly frightening to deal with.” I said to her, “Affirm her bravery and courage and agency in what must be one of the most difficult and frightening experiences she has ever had to confront.”

You know, I can’t think of any worse response to facing this kind of incredibly frightening situation and then being at the height of this vulnerability, the most vulnerable and frightened you will ever be in your life, being slammed with a diagnosis that then cages you and captures you and pins you to the ground, saying thou shalt never move from this spot again, you will never recover from this, and you are now doomed with a diagnosis that you will never escape from, or recover from, go to jail, do not pass go, you will never be normal again.

Because this is what we do to people who experience psychosis, who see things they shouldn’t be seeing and hear things they shouldn’t be hearing. We give them some kind of schizo diagnosis, to separate them out from the rest of us, and we leave them on the other side of that bridge”

To read it in its entirety, please click on the link above.

What the Bleep do we know? And Down the Rabbit hole.

These movies are so great. They really open up your mind to the possibilities of the Universe, consciousness, and what is reality. A documentary combining science – quantum physics with spiritual concepts and consciousness.

I know they are oldies- have been put for some time. But they are still goodies, so decided they should be on here.

Below are  the trailers from you tube.

WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW

WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW- DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

They are available on DVD- documentary style.

Out Of our Heads- NZ Herald 13th May 2010

There is a great article today in the New Zealand Herald today written by Chris Barton, an interview with Rufus May who is here , and running a workshop for us next  week.

Here is an edited excerpt – – To read the whole article- see it here

Former psychiatric patient-turned-psychologist Rufus May has been shaking up the treatment of mental illness by talking to the voices people hear.

 Rufus May’s recovery from delusions – that he was an apprentice spy for the British secret service with a device in his chest that was being used to control him – took time.

He was 18 when he was admitted to Hackney psychiatric hospital in London, diagnosed as schizophrenic and not allowed to leave.

Initially, he believed he was in a place for burnt-out spies. “Eventually I thought people are being treated too badly for it to be a place for burnt-out spies.”

Surely burnt-out spies wouldn’t be humiliated, degraded and forcibly medicated – pinned to the floor while their trousers and underpants were pulled down to their ankles for an injection in the buttocks with mind-altering drugs?…

May had been getting messages about his mission from the Bible and the radio. Between the age of 15 and 16 he was a heavy cannabis user, but he wasn’t smoking at 18 when his troubles began – his first girlfriend left him after a nine-month relationship.

Instead of getting depressed, May drifted into a dreamlike reality, where he was spied upon and felt he had special spiritual powers. In hospital he still thought he could communicate with his girlfriend via the Bible. When he stopped getting messages back, he cried. The dream was over.

“I realised that actually I wasn’t that important and that I was in pyjamas in a psychiatric ward, dribbling. And then I started to think, ‘well, you’re in the pit of society now – the only way is up’.” Coincidentally Yazz’s 1988 pop hit The Only Way Is Up was playing on the radio.

Over 14 months May was admitted to hospital three times. His recovery began with going to church.

“I was religious with a capital R, then. I was trying to be a nicer person. I thought, ‘I need to find a way to be of value to society so they don’t lock me up again’.”

When he was discharged, he was put on two-weekly injections for about six months, as an outpatient. He decided to become a clinical psychologist. “I transformed, maybe not intentionally, but I found my mission – to try and change society’s approach to mental health. In a way he did become a spy. “For a while I infiltrated mental health services.”

It was cloak and dagger – when training in the East End, not far from where he had been sectioned, he was recognised on a couple of occasions by nurses. Fortunately they didn’t blow the whistle.

He didn’t tell his university about his illness until he was qualified. “I separated from my delusions and they became metaphors that I could use symbolically.”

May is in New Zealand doing some teaching with Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ – a group dedicated to providing a better understanding of what it is like to hear voices and have visions and to reduce stigma around the experience.

During his mental illness, May didn’t hear voices. He had delusions and unusual beliefs. But that didn’t stop him being diagnosed with schizophrenia. “I was given that label when I was 18 and I had a psychotic episode.”

May argues the diagnosis of schizophrenia is a meaningless construct – a catch-all that does little more than label people with incurable hopelessness.

Is the label “psychotic episode” any better? “A bit. I had a breakdown. I quite like the lay terms: ‘I went crazy’ or, ‘I was mad’ – I don’t see them as any less scientific as saying ‘psychotic episode’.”

Though May can unpick the nonsense of psychiatric diagnoses, what’s really radical about what he does is his therapy. He talks to the voices that schizophrenics hear.

The idea developed from Accepting Voices by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher. It also builds on the work of people like Dirk Corstens, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist from the Netherlands, who runs voice dialogue workshops.

“I believe people’s voices are beings from their unconscious,” says May. “We all hear voices in our dreams. We all meet other people in our dreams – sometimes people we know, sometimes they’re not known to us or they are other creatures.”

He says people who hear voices are able to access their dream world when they’re awake. “They’ve got these characters talking to them.” He talks to the voices through a kind of role-play adapted from couples’ counselling techniques where different “parts” or personalities speak verbatim from a selected chair.

May says initially the voices often find him very threatening and do tell the person to hit him or worse. But so far, having spoken to hundreds of voices, it’s never happened. “I guess because I’m there to help the person and I’m being respectful. The first thing I teach people is that they don’t have to do what the voice says.”

The other thing May does is the opposite of what happens in exorcisms. He tells the voices he is not trying to get rid of them. When that message gets through he finds the voices often calm down.

Though the voices are like nightmare figures, mostly May finds they’re trying to protect the person – albeit in a macabre way. “So I don’t see them as the enemy. I’m just saying we need to have peace talks with those experiences, not have a war trying to shut them down with medication.”

May regards most mental health problems as some kind of post-traumatic reaction – be it the trauma of being alone, not having meaning in one’s life, or be having been abused. If voices are part of a person and the therapy is designed to get people to accept and understand their voices, how does May go about integrating an evil voice?

“It’s a destructive voice. I would define evil as causing harm. A destructive energy is a very frightened energy coming from some place of fear. So I don’t want to demonise it, I want to understand it.”

He describes the case of a placating and gentle man who had a an angry, commanding voice telling him to harm himself.

“I asked him to ask his voice why he wanted him to harm himself. The voice said, ‘to show people how powerful you are’.” The man then asked the voice whether, if he was powerful in other ways, he would still have to self-harm.

Would the voice be happy if he was powerful in other ways? “The voice said: ‘That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for years’.” On face of it, the voice was evil, but what it represented was the man needing to reclaim power in his life.

In another case, May spoke to a person’s voice which was claiming to be a demon – an incubus. It said to him, “When you go home, take a long good look in the mirror”. May was a little threatened, but a few weeks later the person had a memory of her adopted mother saying, “look in the mirror, look at the evil in your eyes”. Here the voice was an echo from the past of a time of oppression.

“I see them as messengers,” says May. “They may appear as evil, but they’re messengers about injustice. Evil is part of life. Destruction and violence are part of our lives and we need to understand it, not cast it out.”

May believes people have different coping mechanisms for stress in their lives – “different ways of retreating from the world, or looking after ourselves that can sometimes turn into problems”. Problems we don’t really understand and which we call schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or manic behaviour. It’s a view that flies in the face of the “chemical imbalance” theory of mental illness that sees patients medicated to redress chemicals supposedly missing from their normal functioning.

May is not against the use of drugs in treating mental illness, but he does think they are used with too heavy a hand. “We are over-convinced of their value.” He is a fan of combining body therapies – running, walking, swimming, Tai Chi, dance or boxing – with other treatments.

“A lot of psychiatric therapy is moving to the idea that we should work with the body as much as the mind – we’ve probably got to get out of our heads.”

In in his own case, an obsessive preoccupation with his problems didn’t help. “The more one obsesses about something, the more real it can get.”

Yes, he agrees providing scientific evidence for his approach is difficult. “But we didn’t need an evidence base to show that slavery was wrong. We know people’s sadness or confusion is related to their lives. We also know that pills aren’t the final answer.”

What helped in his recovery was people accepting him and not giving up on him. “I think we could have brilliant mental health services, but still people would struggle because the community gives up on them and says, ‘We can’t help you, go to your doctor’.”

May says his work is about building an emancipatory social movement that frees people to help each other more.

“I am idealistic,” he says. “What I try to teach people with their voices is how [they can] appreciatively separate from these experiences and use them, but not be used by them .”

www.hearingvoices.org.nz

What a great article. We  at the HVN are grateful to Rufus for all his support for our organisation.

 

A First class recovery: from hopeless Graduate- Independent

This article was printed in the Northern Advocate this week. It is also viewable here at Independents website

Here is an excerpt

” Eleanor Longden was a diagnosed schizophrenic and heard menacing voices in her head for 10 years. Now, she has fought back and has graduated with a brilliant honours degree in psychology.

Eleanor Longden was revising for her final university exams in May when she was interrupted by a hostile middle-aged man, who barked: “Stop! You can’t do this; you’re going to fail. You’re not good enough to get a degree.” Nine other people joined his tirade in a chorus of noisy abuse as Ms Longden, 27, tried to concentrate on studying.

  “You know what?” she replied. “You’re right: I do need to stop for a break. Thanks for reminding me.”

 Ms Longden has been hearing the same critical, often menacing, internal voices for about 10 years. Every day, the dominant male speaks to her in an authoritative tone. The others back him up and the messages are always the same: you’re not good enough; why bother with anything when you’re such a failure? Except that she is not. She recently graduated from Leeds University with a first-class honours degree in psychology, the highest ever awarded by the department. She now works part-time with people who are hearing voices and is preparing for her PhD next year.

 But it has been a long, hard struggle to where she is now. The psychiatrists and mental health nurses Ms Longden first encountered agreed with her voices. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, forced to take high doses of powerful medication and written off as a hopeless case.

 “My family mourned me as if I were dead,” said Ms Longden, from Bradford. “They were told that I had a degenerative brain disease and they should prepare themselves for the worst as I might end up in a care home. I was told there was no hope, that there was nothing I could do apart from take medication.” How did she go from a hopeless, mentally ill patient to a brilliant academic? A new wonder drug? A lobotomy? Years of therapy?

 It was much simpler than that. She was referred to a consultant psychiatrist, Dr Pat Bracken, who encouraged her to listen to her voices and try to understand what they meant. He helped her to reduce her medication so that she could think more clearly. Slowly she worked out the connection between previous traumatic experiences and the messages the voices communicate. She also discovered her voices were worse when she was stressed. “This was the first time anyone in the psychiatric system had talked about recovery. Before that I’d been labelled, medicated and left; my past didn’t matter and I had no future.”

 Yet between 4 and 10 per cent of the population hear voices and fewer than half of these people ever see a psychiatrist, according to research by the Hearing Voices Network. Between 70 to 90 per cent of voice-hearers do so after traumatic experiences.

 Voices can be heard in the head, through the ears or through the environment. Conventional psychiatry tries to eradicate them using medication. But a growing number of critical psychiatrists, psychologists and voice-hearers try to listen, understand and accept them.

 Dr Bracken, the director of mental health services in West Cork, Ireland, said: “As professionals we need to help people who are depressed or dominated by voices to find a path out of that state. That could be through medication, therapy, religion or creativity. It is completely wrong to try to use one template for everyone.”

 Ms Longden now has an agreement with her voices to listen and respond to them at 8pm for half an hour. If they come earlier she reminds them of the agreement. It works. She hears menacing voices every day, but fits them into her busy life. Talking to them hasn’t made them worse. Stopping her medication hasn’t made her dangerous. Yet some psychiatrists would section her and force her to take medication.

 She said: “My original psychiatrist told me I would have been better off with cancer because it was easier to cure. She still says that to people. What happened to me was catastrophic, and I survived only because of luck. If I had lived one street to the right, I wouldn’t have been referred to Pat Bracken. That can’t be how people’s lives are determined. I’m not anti-medication; I’m pro-choice. Hearing voices is like left-handedness; it’s a human variation, not open to cure, just coping.”

 

By Nina Lakhani Independent

Living with Voices-50 Stories of Recovery- new book released-ISBN13 9781906254223

This is a new book released, edited By Marius Romme, Sandra Escher, Jacqui Dillon, Mervyn Morris and Dick Cortens –

It looks like a must read for anyone who hears voices, or works with those who are distressed by them.

A new analysis of the hearing voices experience outside the illness model, resulted in accepting and making sense of voices. This study of 50 stories forms the evidence for this successful new approach to working with voice hearers.

This book demonstrates that it is entirely possible to overcome problems with hearing voices and to take back control of one’s life. It shows a path to recovery by addressing the main problems voice hearers describe – the threats, the feelings of powerlessness, the anxiety of being mad – and helps them to find their way back to their emotions and spirituality and to realising their dreams. This book also holds true for those who have been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

At the heart of this book are the stories of fifty people who have recovered from the distress of hearing voices. They have overcome the disabling social and psychiatric attitudes towards voice hearing and have also fought with themselves to accept and make sense of the voices. They have changed their relationship with their voices in order to reclaim their lives.

All the people in this book describe their recovery; how they now accept their voices as personal, and how they have learnt to cope with them and have changed their relationship with them. They have discovered that their voices are not a sign of madness but a reaction to problems in their lives that they couldn’t cope with, and they have found that there is a relationship between the voices and their life history, that the voices talk about problems that they haven’t dealt with – and that they therefore make sense.

Our own Debra Lampshire well known in New Zealand for her work with those that heaer voices, has her story within its pages.

If you want to order the book it is available online here from their publisher PCC books 

IF anyone has read it, I would love to hear your comments.