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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