We use the term “hearing voices” as a convenience, but it encompasses a whole spectrum of hearing voices and noises, seeing and feeling things that other people cannot. In psychiatric terms these are called hallucinations. In our terms they are part of the (sometimes distressing) experience of being human.
Many people associate hearing voices with a diagnosis of schizophrenia; however, this is not necessarily the case. 1 in 10 people in the UK hear voices, yet only 1 in 100 receive a schizophrenia diagnosis. We facilitate groups for all people who experience hearing voices, with many different mental health diagnoses, or none.
In 2007, Sutton Mental Health Foundation in conjunction with local psychologists, and people who use our services, set up Sutton Hearing Voices Network. The Sutton network is affiliated to the national Hearing Voices Network (HVN) and our facilitators have been trained by the national HVN. Two of us have subsequently gone on to train with HVN so that we are able to provide training locally. We can provide a half day or full day workshop, or the full 4 day facilitator training. The training is suitable for everyone who has an interest in learning more about the experience of hearing voices, whether voice hearer, professional, carer or family member, whether they want to be a facilitator or not. The course is free to “voice hearers”.
We currently facilitate 4 groups for people who hear voices, within the ethos of HVN. All our group facilitators are fully trained and are staff or people who use services who have experienced hearing voices.
The groups we run are safe places for people who hear voices to get together and share experiences and coping strategies. They are groups where members can give and receive encouragement, reassurance and support.
The meetings can help to reduce the feelings of isolation which often follows the voice hearing experience. They can provide a supportive, informal environment where people can share their fears and worries as well as ways of coping with the voices.
One of our group members said “within the group I found the acceptance and understanding that I have been looking for,” and another said, “It is so therapeutic to be with a group of people who hear voices and together we try to find our way through the labyrinth of voice hearing.”
Our groups are held in Belmont on alternate Mondays, in Cheam on alternate Wednesday evenings and in Sutton on alternate Tuesdays. We also have a weekly group on Jasper/Crocus Ward, for inpatients.
We are hoping to be able to expand our network, but expansion depends on having enough facilitators. We will be running a four day facilitator training course in June and July 2011. This is funded by the Big Lottery Fund
To find out more about our groups, or training, please call Angelina Campisi on: 07526 781041 or 020 8770 0172
The above is taken from the Sutton Mental Health Foundation website.