Streaming November 25-27 – Madness: Fighting for Justice in Mental Health Conference

“What does it mean to have a just mental health care system and who has access to it? Who decides who is labelled as mad?” These are the questions at the core of Disruption Network Lab’s upcoming conference, Madness: Fighting for Justice in Mental Health, which will be streaming for free November 25-27.

Promotional image for the Madness: Fighting for Justice in Mental Health conference

The international conference MADNESS: Fighting for Justice in Mental Health takes place on November 25 – 27 at Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin. The 28th Conference of the Disruption Network Lab investigates systems of mental health care and support, focusing on prevailing discourses and practices, biases and inequality. It is exploring the possibilities of a mental health system which puts human rights and justice in the centre of its practice. The conference introduces the perspectives of scientists, human rights and social justice activists, artists, doctors and practitioners as well as those closely affected – the people living with mental illness, through keynotes, panels, performance, film screening, workshops and meetups.

What does it mean to have a just mental health care system? Who is deciding who is labelled as mad? Who is telling the story of madness? Who has access to mental health care services? Can we decolonise psychiatry? Different perspectives and positions, such as scientific and social discourses, the medical practice, the fight against profit-oriented health care management, as well as the social, racial and ethnic differences of those affected, will be combined. This conference brings together researchers and practitioners but gives also specific attention to the perspectives and needs of people living with mental illnesses. The goal of the conference is to give visibility and voice to those closely affected, to emphasise the necessity for action in the way this problem is being treated and to think of examples for more humane policies.

To see a list of speakers, or to stream the conference, visit the Disruption Network Lab website.

New Voices & Visions support group at Raven Song Community Health Centre

There is a new Voices & Visions support group meeting at Raven Song Community Health Centre in Vancouver! The group is drop-in and open to the public, meaning you do not need a referral or to be a client of a mental health team. The group meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm. For more information, visit the Spotlight on Mental Health Website or email VanVoicesAndVisions@vch.ca. Or, to find another support group, check out our list of local groups here.

Flyer summarizing information about the Raven Song Voices & Visions support group

North Shore virtual group hiatus

The virtual North Shore support group, which normally takes place on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 5-6 pm, is being paused due to decreased attendance. If you would still like to come to a virtual support group, please visit the Virtual Groups page for a list of current virtual groups. Virtual groups remain open to anyone, including North Shore residents.

To find an in-person group, you can also check out our list of Vancouver or New Westminster support groups, or the Hearing Voices Study Club, which is currently hosted at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House.

World Hearing Voices Day

Today, September 14th, marks World Hearing Voices Day! World Hearing Voices Day recognizes and celebrates the diversity of experiences of people who hear voices, including our struggles. As Intervoice puts it,

It is a day to promote our right to define our experiences in our own way. It’s a time to expand the narrow stereotypes that still exist about voice-hearing – that it should be a source of shame and secrecy. We want to help create a world where people can talk about their experiences with those they choose – and expect an empathic response. We want to promote the idea that voice-hearing is a diverse human experience and that we need to leave judgements and assumptions at the door.

World Hearing Voices Day has been celebrated since 2006, first proposed by Louise Pembroke, an English voice hearer and psychiatric survivor who hoped to challenge negative attitudes towards the experience, specifically the assumption that hearing voices means a person is ill. Today is a day to recognize that many people live well with voices, value their voice hearing experience, and are proud to call themselves voice hearers. However, it’s also a day to recognize complexity – including the fact that for many other people, hearing voices is difficult, upsetting, or not something they want to be a big part of their identity. There are as many ways to hear voices as there are people who hear voices, and building a community where we’re able to share our many, varied, often messy experiences without judgment is central to the Hearing Voices Movement. As HVN England wrote in a 2020 blog post,

World Hearing Voices Day is a day to celebrate the strength and diversity of those of us who hear voices. It’s a day to lift up our stories (in all their complexity). It’s a day where those of us who can speak about voices openly (without fear of being bullied, harmed or coerced) can say ‘Here I Am!’ and hopefully create the kinds of conversations that help erode some of the silence and shame surrounding voice-hearing.

A key tenet of the Hearing Voices Movement, and our network, is that voice-hearing is a diverse human experience and that there is no single truth about voice-hearing that fits everyone. We are interested in people’s own ways of making sense of their experiences … in the relationship they have with the voices they hear or the visions they see. Whatever your experience of voices, visions, smells, presences, tactile sensations or tastes – you’re welcome here.

To celebrate World Hearing Voices Day, try some of these suggestions from Intervoice:

  • Hosting, or going to, an event (for example, the Hearing Voices Study Club will be meeting for its inaugural session today, September 14th in Vancouver; or, here’s an upcoming by-donation webinar hosted by ISPS-US featuring author Ruth Ozeki and members of the HVN-USA)
  • Using the day to talk about ‘hearing voices’. Share some of Intervoice’s essential facts and promote some discussion with friends, colleagues and relatives.
  • Using social media to raise awareness (for example, by tweeting about voices and visions with the hashtag #WorldHearingVoicesDay)
  • Downloading and sharing Intervoice’s postcards with quotes from voice-hearers on your website or social media (or making your own!)

Hearing Voices Study Club at Kits House

The Hearing Voices Study Club is back! We will be meeting monthly at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House to read, watch, and listen to media related to hearing voices. The group is open to anyone who hears voices, sees visions, or has other unique sensory experiences or beliefs, as well as friends and family, service providers, students, and any community members who are interested in learning. The group is drop-in and open to everyone. Note: this is a social/discussion group for sharing our ideas and reflections, not a treatment group.

The first meeting will be on September 14th from 6-7 pm at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House (Vancity Room), 2305 W 7th Ave. Future meetings will be on the first Wednesday of each month from 6-7 pm on October 5th, November 2nd, and December 7th. Transit tickets are available on request and light snacks will be served. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

For more information, please contact Anne: anne.bchvn@gmail.com

A flyer for the Hearing Voices Study Club summarizing the above information

New in-person support group at South Mental Health Team

There is a new in-person Voices and Visions Support Group being held at South Mental Health and Substance Use Team in Vancouver. The group is drop-in, and you do not need to be a client of the team (or any mental health team) to attend. Read on for more information, or visit the Vancouver groups page to find another group in Vancouver.

Voices and Visions Support Group

Time: 2nd Monday of each month
2:00pm – 3:00pm 

Location: South Mental Health and Substance Use Team
220-1200 W. 73rd Ave, Vancouver, BC
604-266-6124

Do you feel alone with your unique sensory experiences, unsure of the experiences of your loved one, or simply want to meet people in the same boat as you?

Our Voices & Visions support groups are led by peers (people with lived/living experience with unique sensory experiences). This group provides help and support, and meets in-person on the 2nd Monday of each month.

This group is offered on a drop-in basis and is open to those with lived experience and their supporters.

Flyer summarizing information listed above

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

Peer Facilitator Contract Opportunity

Vancouver Coastal Health is currently hiring for a peer facilitator position for Voices & Visions support groups in Vancouver (virtual and in person). See below for more information, or click here to view the contract posting on the Spotlight on Mental Health website.

SUPPORT GROUPS PEER FACILITATOR: NOTICE OF CONTRACT

CLOSING: SEPTEMBER 1, 2022

ONE Contract with the Consumer Involvement & Initiative Peer Led Workshops Program (Voices and Visions)
Location of Work: Vancouver (in-person and online via Zoom)
Duration of Placement: 6 month contract, with potential to renew
Pay and Hours: $20 an hour, up to 8 hours maximum per month

Job Description:

The Vancouver Voices and Visions groups are peer-led support groups based on the International Hearing Voices Network. Their aim is to be a place where people who hear voices, see visions, or have other unusual/unique sensory experiences can give and receive support, share techniques for living well with their experiences and/or explore the meaning those experiences have for them. The groups are facilitated by peers who support the smooth functioning of the group and make relevant resources available to participants.

Continue reading “Peer Facilitator Contract Opportunity”

Upcoming topics for North Shore Voices & Visions discussion groups

The North Shore Voices and Visions virtual support group is introducing a discussion focus for the first session of each month (on the 2nd Thursday of the month). The group will still be meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month from 5 to 6 PM on Zoom, and is open to anyone who hears voices, sees visions, or experiences other unusual perceptions or beliefs. The group is drop-in, and your supporters are also welcome to attend. To learn more about the upcoming discussion topics, keep reading! Or, for the Zoom link to attend, visit the group page.

Support group flyer.

For each month and discussion topic, we’ve listed some questions to get you thinking. What does each topic mean to you? Drop-in on the second Thursday of the month on Zoom to share your thoughts.

August 11: Self-care

  • What does self-care mean to you? What practices are important to you for your wellbeing? How do you define wellbeing? How does self-care affect your voices/visions, and how do your voices/visions affect your self-care? What is the role of community and personal relationships in self-care? How effective is self-care for you? Are there limits to self-care?

September 8: Community and relationships

  • What does community mean to you? What are the most important relationships in your life? What are your experiences being in community spaces as someone with voices/visions? Do supportive communities/relationships help you to cope with distressing voices/visions? Are there challenges to being part of a community, as someone who experiences voices/visions? In your opinion, what would it mean to be part of a community of people living with voices/visions? What conflicts/tensions do you perceive in this community (or in other communities), or what do you value about it? What do you think this community has to offer?

October 13: Exploring the uniqueness of our perceptual experiences

  • “Hearing voices” and “seeing visions” mean a lot of different things to different people, and not everyone who comes to this group experiences either. What is it like for you when you experience your unique perceptions or beliefs? For instance, if you hear voices, where does the voice come from? Is it inside or outside your head? Do you hear the words clearly? Do they sound like a “normal” sound or not? Other types of experiences can include seeing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that other people don’t, but they can also include the world seeming to transform in ways that are harder to describe. Here is a podcast interview that discusses how much people’s experiences can vary:

November 10: Self-image and identity

  • How do your voices/visions affect how you feel about yourself (or do they have an effect at all)? Do your voices/visions reflect how you feel about yourself – for instance, do they seem to pick up on your insecurities, worries, or self-esteem, or are they unrelated? What coping strategies do you use? Does the way other people think of or talk about your voices/visions affect you, in a good or a bad way? What else affects how you feel about yourself? Does it change a lot, or does it stay the same? Has your perception of yourself changed since you started experiencing voices/visions?

December 8: Rights, access, and advocacy

  • Have you been in a situation before (for instance, healthcare, employment, housing) where you felt like your rights were violated or you were treated differently because of your experiences with voices/visions? What did you do about it, or what do you wish you could have done at the time? Were there resources you found helpful? What do you think could be changed to prevent or improve this type of situation? What advice would you give others? Is there anything you wish you had known about your situation, or that you think other people (friends, family members, professionals, etc) don’t always understand?

We look forward to seeing you there!

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.

Continue reading “Exhibition at Gallery Gachet: Beauty of Life In Psychosis”

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.

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

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.

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