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

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).

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.

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.

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

I’d like to acknowledge today as a day of reflection and mourning, while also recognizing that, because National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is not a statutory holiday in BC, many people haven’t been able to take the time off work today to grieve for their families and communities.

The ongoing legacies of colonization, occupation, cultural genocide, and intergenerational trauma are deeply intertwined with health and wellbeing – emotional, physical, and spiritual. Understanding the histories and present day realities of the land we live on and the communities we live in is an important part of understanding ourselves, including, for many people, our experiences with voices and visions.

If, like me, you’re a settler on the land where you currently live, I’d like to extend a few opportunities for learning and giving today. One place to start is by making a financial contribution to an Indigenous-led charitable organization: https://www.onedayspay.ca/

You can also view the ODP guide to deeper engagement, which has a list of questions to ask yourself as a starting point to learn more about the land you’re on, the communities around you, the histories you share, and your relationship to settlement.

If you’re not sure whose territory you’re on, some websites that might help as a starting point include:

If you haven’t read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action, you can find them here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/british-columbians-our-governments/indigenous-people/aboriginal-peoples-documents/calls_to_action_english2.pdf

If you aren’t familiar with the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, you can find a guide to understanding it here: https://www.indigenousbar.ca/pdf/undrip_handbook.pdf

You can watch (live or recorded) video events streamed by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation here: https://nctr.ca/education/trw/general-public-schedule/

I hope everyone is able to reflect and/or act in whatever ways feel right, and I hope the rest of today is as gentle as possible for everyone who’s struggling. If you’re Indigenous and in need of support, you can call the following crisis line numbers 24/7:

New Intervoice website and BC Hearing Voices Network updates

Intervoice website and World Hearing Voices Congress

Exciting news! Intervoice, the umbrella organization which connects local Hearing Voices networks around the globe, has launched its new website. You can check it out here: https://www.intervoiceonline.org/ The Intervoice website compiles news, resources, and research on the topic of hearing voices in an accessible, open-ended format, as well as a directory of Hearing Voices networks around the world. Intervoice also recently hosted the (virtual) 12th annual World Hearing Voices Congress in Cork, Ireland, where myself (Rory Higgs) and Anne Liao of the BC Hearing Voices Network were grateful to have the opportunity to speak about our vision for community- and rights-based approaches to voice hearing. Recordings from the Congress should be available online shortly.

BC Hearing Voices Network updates

We are hoping to restart the Hearing Voices Study Club, a discussion group focused on articles, research, and personal stories related to the topic of hearing voices (potentially in a virtual, province-wide format). If you’re interested in receiving Study Club updates, please contact admin@bchvn.ca. We will also be introducing regular province-wide virtual meetings to support group facilitators and organizers. If you’re considering starting a group locally and are interested in attending an upcoming meeting, please contact admin@bchvn.ca for more information!

July 8th North Shore Group Cancellation

Hi everyone, apologies to those who were hoping to attend the North Vancouver Voices & Visions support group today (July 8th). The group has been cancelled for this evening. The next session will take place on the 4th Thursday of the month as usual, on July 22nd. We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at the next session!

Statement on the detection of unmarked graves at former residential school sites

Content warning: discussion of anti-Indigenous racism, genocide

If you are in need of support, please call:

  • The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
  • KUU-US Crisis Line: 1-800-588-8717
  • Tsow-Tun-Le-Lum Society toll-free line: 1-888-403-3123; main office 250-390-3123
  • Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society main office 604-985-4464; toll-free 1-800-721-0066

Over the last several weeks, following the detection of 215 unmarked graves at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, over 1300 unmarked graves have been located at 6 residential school sites across Canada. Today, Cowessess First Nation announced the detection of 751 unmarked graves near the former Marieval Indian Residential School. It is important to note that the knowledge that Indigenous children were killed at residential schools – by neglect and abuse, and as an act of cultural genocide – is not new. Indigenous survivors and their communities have testified for years about the violence of residential schools, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final 2015 report estimated thousands of deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools, many of them whose names were not recorded. Nevertheless, the grief and horror of having these and other deaths confirmed is immense.

The BCHVN recognizes this is an enormously difficult time for many. We recognize that words alone cannot ease the suffering of the past or the present. We recognize that distress is rational response to the violence of colonization – including not only the traumatic legacy of the residential school system, but the ongoing occupation of Indigenous lands and disenfranchisement and criminalization of Indigenous communities. As a grassroots network supporting people who hear voices, see visions, experience extreme states, or who have other unusual sensory experiences, we believe in the importance of understanding mental and emotional health within the context of people’s lives. This includes reckoning with Canada’s colonial past and present.

We encourage non-Indigenous readers to review the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report, linked above. We also encourage you to review the TRC’s Calls to Action report to learn more about what steps you can take towards justice. If you are able, we also encourage you to donate directly to Indigenous-led organizations and initiatives. You can donate to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society here. You can browse a list of Indigenous organizations in BC here.

Chilliwack group update

The Chilliwack Hearing Voices group will now be hosted by Communitas Peer Support and will be held over Zoom every Monday at 6 pm. Anyone in BC is welcome to attend, but people in the Fraser Valley region are particularly encouraged to check out the group! For more information, please visit the Communitas website here: https://peersupportcsc.com/service/hearing-voices/

As a reminder, if you’re unsure of what to expect at Hearing Voices support groups or whether they’re right for you, an information session and community roundtable will be taking place over Zoom tomorrow, May 6th, from 5-6 pm (PST).

We hope to see you there!

New virtual support group – North Shore

The North Shore Voices and Visions support group is going virtual! The group will be held over Zoom, and is open to everyone with lived experience of voices, visions, or other unusual sensory experiences, as well as their supporters. The group will be held on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of every month, from 5:00-6:00 pm. You don’t need to register to attend this group, and you don’t need to be the client of a mental health team. For more information, call Debbie Sesula at 604-983-6023 (ext. 1).

Link to join (will work for all sessions): https://phsa.zoom.us/j/61674532688?pwd=eXFBbk8rVHZaSFYvWGIxOEVSRElYdz09
Meeting ID: 616 7453 2688
Password: 773404

New Virtual Support Group: 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the Month

VOICES & VISIONS VIRTUAL SATURDAY SUPPORT GROUP
2ND AND FOURTH SATURDAYS OF THE MONTH
STARTING MAY 23, 2020

Explores living well with voices, visions and other unusual sensory experiences.

You can participate via computer or telephone.

Questions? Email: renea.mohammed@vch.ca or call 604-708-5276

Virtual Support Group Saturdays rev2-page-001

Logon & dial-in information for the 4th Saturday of the month:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://vancouvercoastalhealth.zoom.us/j/96896031133?pwd=T3dwc2Q2M3YrU3RZSGJyVStmbElkUT09

Meeting ID: 968 9603 1133
Password: 119643

One tap mobile
8557038985,,96896031133# Canada Toll-free

Password: 119643

Dial by your location
855 703 8985 Canada Toll-free
Meeting ID: 968 9603 1133

Password: 119643

Logon & dial-in information for the 2nd Saturday of the month:
Join Zoom Meeting
https://vancouvercoastalhealth.zoom.us/j/96189949737?pwd=S2pqcnBmaEE5eFBOMDRrOVhHeFlQdz09

Meeting ID: 961 8994 9737
Password: 731767

One tap mobile
8557038985,,96189949737# Canada Toll-free

Password: 731767

Dial by your location
855 703 8985 Canada Toll-free
Meeting ID: 961 8994 9737

Password: 731767

HOPE YOU CAN MAKE IT!

Hello,

Due to the Corona Virus, all groups in Vancouver are currently on break except for our new online support group. Groups in other areas may also be cancelled. We recommend you look at the contact information on flyers and check to see if the group is running before planning to attend.

Stay safe!

Warm regards,

BC Hearing Voices Network

Hearing Voices: Art & Storytelling Workshop, in Vancouver

Rory's story telling workshop flyer

Individuals who identify as hearing voices, seeing visions, having other unusual perceptions or beliefs, and/or living with psychosis are invited to participate in a six week program where they will create and discuss stories told through art and writing. The program will explore how lived experience can inspire works of fiction, as well as how creative self-expression and the art of storytelling can help us to make sense of our experiences. Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of processes and mediums, as well as to discuss the creative process in a safe, supportive group of peers, and encouraged to build their own creative practice outside of sessions. 

The program will incorporate principles from the Hearing Voices movement, namely, that we are all experts on our own lives, and that our individual stories and interpretations of our experiences are valuable. The program takes the stance that everyone has something valuable to contribute to the world of the arts, and that this is rooted in our uniqueness as people – including experiences such as hearing voices or seeing visions. 

All art supplies will be provided, including a sketchbook, but participants are welcome to bring any additional materials they would like to use. You do not need to be a client of mental health services. 

For more information, email hearingvoicesworkshop@outlook.com or call Rory Higgs at 778-689-1626. To register online, visit: https://forms.gle/12z9FDHFHfB3Zh2H8