In-person groups are back in Vancouver!

Starting Friday, July 15th, the 3rd Friday of the month group in Vancouver will be meeting in-person at Three Bridges Community Health Centre instead of over Zoom. All other Vancouver support groups listed on the BCHVN website will still be meeting virtually. The group will still be drop-in, and you don’t need to be a client of a mental health team or to have a referral to join – everyone is welcome! To see the full list of open Hearing Voices support groups in Vancouver, click here.

Three Bridges Voices & Visions support group

  • When: 3rd Friday of every month, from 2:30-3:30 pm (PST)
  • Where: Three Bridges Community Health Centre
    Room 123 (Ground Floor), 1128 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC

For more info, contact Celina:
604-708-5274 or VanVoicesAndVisions@vch.ca

Participants wanted: Study on facilitating Hearing Voices groups

A study at the University of Manchester is trying to understand more about how online support groups for people who hear voices compare to in-person support groups. If you have experience facilitating groups for people who hear voices, either in-person or online, you are invited to participate. For more information, please see the poster below or contact Alison Branitsky at alison.branitsky@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk.

Exhibition at Gallery Gachet: Beauty of Life In Psychosis

An exhibition featuring work by young artists with lived experience of hearing voices, seeing visions, other unique perceptions, and/or psychosis will be opening tomorrow, May 13th, at Gallery Gachet in Vancouver. The exhibition is based on a peer-led project originally known as the Hearing Voices Art and Storytelling Workshop and later as Beauty of Life In Psychosis (BLIP), which brought people together to create art about their experiences. A catered opening reception will be held from 6-8 pm – no tickets are required. The gallery is also hosting a public event May 20th where community members are invited to drop in between 2-6 pm to add to several collaborative canvases that will be displayed in the gallery. More information about the exhibition is available below.

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Research participants wanted for study on reducing distress related to voices

Researchers at the University of Toronto are recruiting participants for an online study focused on methods to help reduce the distress some people experience when they hear voices. If you’re interested in participating, or for more information, please contact Talia Leibovitz at t.leibovitz@mail.utoronto.ca or 647-689-6098 Ext. 103. Please see the flyer below (or click to download the .pdf version).

Submission: “Skepticism, Psychosis, and Hallucinations as Evidence for Our Beliefs,” by Bradley Astra Aldridge

If mental experiences are inherently influenced by biological and psychological processes, then human experience is intrinsically subjective. Given that these limits apply to the cognitive processes of all human beings, no individual can claim to adopt a viewpoint that is truly objective[…] Rather than hallucinations being an aberration standing in contrast to a normal, objective experience of reality, skepticism can help us to see that all experiences of reality are subjective and contextualized within our own unique life-worlds. Our perceptions don’t just passively record external reality, but reveal the personalized dimensions of our own individual understandings of the world. 

“Skepticism, Psychosis, and Hallucinations as Evidence for Our Beliefs,” Bradley Astra Aldridge

In this thoroughly-researched essay, Bradley Astra Aldridge argues for the benefits of accepting voices as a meaningful part of subjective reality, approaching the topic from a philosophical perspective grounded in skepticism. Tightly argued and drawing on a wide body of literature – including philosophy, psychology, and anthropology – this thought-provoking article expands on the link between trauma and voice-hearing to propose that all perception is ultimately shaped by the personal beliefs and experiences of the perceiver.

About the author: Bradley Astra Aldridge is a voice-hearer and undergraduate philosophy student at the University of British Columbia. He has previously worked as a facilitator of hearing voices groups.

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Submission: “Holism, Not Invalidation: A Schizo/Crazy/Neurodivergent Witch-Bitch Manifesto,” by Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess

Don’t we humans and demigods have the power to make things sacred – especially together? Isn’t that what our magic is all about?

In this manifesto, Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess encourages us to think multi-dimensionally about madness. According to Sankofa, to move beyond invalidation toward genuine understanding, we must bring together decolonial, trauma-informed, biological, and spiritual lenses. Rather than discounting either the usefulness of medication as a tool or the value of spiritual experiences, Sankofa argues for a holistic approach, alchemizing insights from social science, psychiatry, neuroscience, Indigenous ways of knowing, and Sankofa’s own experiences with the otherworldly. Sankofa keeps the reader on their toes with cheeky humour and no shortage of good-natured zeal in this lively exploration of body, politics and magic.

You can read more about Mad Pride and reclaiming words like “crazy” and “mad” here. You can read more about neurodivergence here. As always, different people will have different feelings about the terms and concepts they prefer to use to talk about their experiences.

About the author: Sankofa is a Black and mixed poly, queer, trans and gender-transcending possessed and shapeshifting survivor and prophet who writes from traditional, ancestral and stolen lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani); the Tsuut’ina; the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations); and the Métis Nation (Region 3), where Sankofa resides. Sankofa is eager to join the fight to democratize the arts and obsolesce prescriptivism. Sankofa believes that making art is an inalienable part of being human. Further, Sankofa knows that art is key to decolonization and a better world. Sankofa is a proud and unapologetic schizo witch-bitch. Sankofa’s pronouns are Sankofa/Sankofa/Sankofa’s/Sankofaself.

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How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity (Video)

This video from the Barnard Center of the Research on Women features La Marr Jurelle Bruce speaking about his book, How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind: Madness and Black Radical Creativity. From the book description:

Bruce theorizes four overlapping meanings of madness: the lived experience of an unruly mind, the psychiatric category of serious mental illness, the emotional state also known as “rage,” and any drastic deviation from psychosocial norms.

In this video, La Marr Jurelle Bruce and Farah Jasmine Griffin discuss Mad and Black identity, art, and activism, which they connect to the legacies of (resistance to) slavery and colonization.

Content note: discusses anti-black racism, including slavery and sexual violence.

Yale COPE Project

Yale University is conducting a study to understand perceptual experiences like hearing voices, seeing visions, or smelling, tasting, or feeling things that other people don’t, and what makes some people more able to control their experiences. They are currently looking for participants to complete a series of online surveys. You can find out more about the project by visiting the COPE Project website, or reading the FAQ page. From the COPE Project website:

People everywhere have experiences like hearing voices and seeing things other people don’t. Sometimes, these are part of mental illness. Often, however, they occur in healthy individuals. There are usually a few differences between the experiences of people who seek psychiatric care and people who don’t. One difference is the ability to regain empowerment in the distressing life experiences that aren’t working for them–specifically with perceptual experiences. For example, many people say they can schedule times for when their voices (whether they consider them voices, aspects, guides, spirits, etc.) can talk to them. 

Influence over our experiences is complex. It involves neurological, psychological, and social factors. Today, there is no way to measure the ability to influence perceptual experiences. 

We have made the first tool to study these experiences. It will help us design new treatments for individuals to gain empowerment in voice-hearing and other perceptual experiences. But we need your help! 

Participants can be people with experiences of seeing, hearing, or feeling things others might not be who have influence (or control) or people who do not have influence (or control) over these experiences.

Behind the COPE Project is a team of individuals from all different communities–neuroscientists, therapists, mental health professionals, mental health advocates, individuals with lived experiences, and individuals who view their experiences as spiritually oriented. Our group is called the SPIRIT Alliance (SPIRIT meaning the multitude of characteristics that make up an individual). 

Our goal: to understand clinically the extraordinary experiences of real people. 

Share your experiences with us! Understanding how you can influence your perceptual experiences can help those who can’t do it themselves. This can inform new treatments for people who struggle with distressing experiences.

Our goals are:

 To learn from those who hear, see, and feel things others can’t/don’t
• To understand the ways people can control these experiences and their lives
• To create new treatments for those who need them.

Participation:

•  Is online, from the comfort of your own home. 
•  Is paid.
•  Involves taking surveys, playing games, and sharing your story.

Submission: “Hearing Voices: What I Experience,” by Tom

Today I have been hearing voices, and my mind is still, even after all my research and self-reflection, coming up with theories as to where the voices may be coming from and who may be causing them, in a desperate attempt to find the source of the voices and make them stop. No matter how unrealistic or ridiculous I think the theories I come up with are I still believe them to be true. I have to remind myself that there is no evidence or logical reasoning to back these theories up, and that I am just hearing voices again; that there will eventually be an answer as to why I hear them. This whole cycle of becoming distracted and feeling harassed by voices, then having to reject my mind’s theories as to where they are coming from and just accept that I hear them, every single day, becomes exhausting. I find that sharing my experiences with others, whether it be online on a voice hearing website or with people close to me I can trust, helps me both emotionally and psychologically. I hope that writing this essay, and sharing how I hear voices, helps someone who is going through a similar situation.

–“Hearing Voices: What I Experience,” by Tom (excerpt)

Those of us who hear voices often struggle to make sense of the experience. Beyond the fear and confusion we may feel from the voices themselves, it can be difficult to figure out the “right” way of thinking about the experience. Sometimes, we feel torn between competing explanations – or unable to find any satisfactory explanation at all. In this submission, Tom describes his own process of reflection and how he’s forged an understanding of his voices. Tom considers (and dismisses) many different possibilities with care and curiosity, ultimately building a tentative case for the root causes of his experiences. As Tom reminds us in this thorough and insightful essay, having the space to fully explore the personal significance of our experiences is invaluable.

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Webinar: An Overview of Positive Change and Post-traumatic Growth Following an Episode of Psychosis

Here is a free recorded webinar from the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network discussing ways in which people may change in positive ways after experiencing psychosis. The webinar also discusses other, non-medical ways of understanding experiences like voices and visions and touches on the Hearing Voices Movement, as well as the psychiatric survivor movement. The presenters emphasize the diversity of experiences and the importance of making space for positive as well as negative feelings about them.

Statement on the BCCDC’s findings on mortality during the 2021 heat dome

Content warning: discussion of ableism and health inequality

The Tyee recently published a summary of a BC Centre for Disease Control Environmental Health Services presentation (viewable here) analyzing deaths that occurred this summer during the catastrophic heat dome. The presentation concluded that “people with schizophrenia were at four times higher risk [of death] during the heat dome” – above and beyond people living with cardiovascular conditions, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. This finding is tragic, infuriating, and unacceptable. Unfortunately, for some of us who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it may not be surprising. People diagnosed with schizophrenia experience high rates of poverty, social isolation, lack of access to medical care, chronic physical illness, interpersonal violence, and other factors that can lead to worse health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy. This is not a result of the individual experiences (e.g. hearing voices) leading to diagnosis. It is a social problem resulting from discrimination and deep inequality. This is a failure of access: to social support, to safe and trustworthy medical care, to proper housing to rest in, to green spaces to cool off. It doesn’t have to be this way.

As the climate crisis progresses, the impacts will be felt disproportionately by the most marginalized in society, including people with psychosocial disabilities, Mad people, voice-hearers, and others. Responding to the challenges posed by extreme weather is a mental health and disability justice issue, and will require building strong communities. Together, we’re resilient. Please look out for one another.

During the heat dome, one volunteer-run project that helped to distribute water and cold drinks to those in need around the Lower Mainland was the Vancouver Community Fridge Project. If you’re interested in learning more about the project or getting involved, click here.

Submission: Three artworks by Joan

Abstract Painting, n.d.
Acrylic

Today’s blog post features three artworks by Joan, who has lived in the Comox Valley for the past two years and finds creative practice to be a key part of mental health. For Joan, self-expression through art is valuable – but so is the way it connects us to others through a sense of recognition and mutual understanding. Joan writes, “To me altered states, hearing voices, visions… have much more purpose than a diagnostic label.”

These three works evoke a stark and powerful sense of place. As the viewer (or listener), you are transported for a moment to another world: one that is abstracted, shattered, or out on the open sea. At the same time, Joan delivers a message of hope: “I am up. I am breathing. The sun isn’t up yet, but I’m sure it will rise also.”

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