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.”

Continue reading “Submission: Three artworks by Joan”

Submission: “Experiences Hearing Voices,” by Tom

In this submission, Tom writes in to share some of his personal experiences with hearing voices, as well as the strategies that help him to cope with and challenge the voices. Knowing that others have gone through similar things – and found ways to live well with their experiences – can be a powerful source of hope. As Tom puts it,

I hope what I shared about my experience hearing voices will help someone, as it helps me to share my experience with others, and hopefully someone else who is struggling with hearing voices everyday can relate to what I’m going through.

Read on for Tom’s personal story of living with voices, the struggles he’s encountered, and techniques that have helped him to take back control.

Continue reading “Submission: “Experiences Hearing Voices,” by Tom”

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!

Upcoming webinar: Hearing Voices: The Value of “Experts-by-Experience”

Upcoming webinar with lived experience expert Dmitriy Gutkovich taking place Thursday, July 22nd:

“In this webinar, Dmitriy Gutkovich will present on how lived experience is reshaping support and strategy in the hearing voices community.

Major topics will include a brief history of the hearing voices movement, including its struggles from a social justice perspective. Dmitriy will address frequent voice-hearing challenges including belief structures, attention, hostility, isolation, and relationships; and how community solutions have helped impact what is a fundamentally individual experience. He will then discuss more recent research, and how social and individual perspectives on hearing voices can impact quality-of-life. Finally, he will conclude with a conversation on the challenges for building a knowledge base for lived experience solutions, unifying a hearing voices community, and changing the public narrative of stigma and discrimination on the experience.

In addition to 11 years of personal lived experience, Dmitriy has earned leadership roles in nonprofits including Hearing Voices Network NYC, Hearing Voices Network USA, ISPS-US, and the New York City Peer Workforce Coalition. He is the recently published author of “Life with Voices: A Guide for Harmony” and collaborates as a project partner for Yale’s Cope Project. He has also frequently appeared on podcasts and webinars, championing the role for lived experience in the national conversation.”

Admission is by donation, and you can register for free using the discount code “Freebie”. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hearing-voices-the-value-of-experts-by-experience-tickets-161228339303

 

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!

2021 World Hearing Voices Congress: Update and Call for Submissions

The 2021 World Hearing Voices Congress will be taking place September 1st-3rd in Cork, Ireland, with a hybrid virtual/in-person format. The theme of this year’s Congress is “Solidarity in Times of Adversity: The Global Voice Hearing Community Reconnecting”. The conference organizers write:

This year’s Congress will create spaces for voice hearers, family members, carers, practitioners, academics, and all those interested in the principles and values of the International Hearing Voices Movement, to connect and/or reconnect with one another in a post-pandemic world, either in person in Cork, Ireland or online across the globe. Drawing on two ancient Irish traditions, the Congress organisers aim to provide a platform (ardán) to focus on the ways in which many voices can work together, supporting each other in difficult times (meitheal).

*Ardán (pronounced ar-dawn) is an Irish word meaning platform, stage, but it is also used in the context of ‘raising one spirits’!

*Meitheal (pronounced meh-hill) is the Irish expression of the ancient and universal appliance of cooperation to social need, referring to the co-operative labour system in Ireland where neighbours help each other in turn with farming work, such as harvesting crops. It establishes community unity through cooperative work and mutually reciprocal support.

Online registration for both in-person and virtual tickets is now open: click here.

The call for papers, presentations, workshops, and performances is also now open (deadline for submissions is July 30th): click here.

To learn more, visit the conference information page on the Intervoice website, or check out Hearing Voices Network Ireland!

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.

Call for proposals: ISPS-US Virtual Conference

The call for proposals for the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis US Chapter’s upcoming virtual conference is now open! The conference will take place November 5-7 and the theme will be “Moving Toward Shared Understandings in Psychosis and Extreme States: Professional, Individual, and Family Perspectives.” Proposals are due by July 5th. For more information, visit the ISPS-US website.

From the ISPS-US website:

Psychosis and extreme states are complex, multifaceted phenomena. Mainstream mental health care in the United States has historically presented a narrow view of both root causes and treatments for the distressing symptoms associated with psychosis, viewing these experiences from a purely bio-medical framework. However, scientific advances over the past decades, and greater awareness of social, cultural, and societal influences on mental health have opened up opportunities to shift the conversation toward more humanistic, person-centered understandings. Thanks to the contributions of people with lived experience, family members, and enlightened practitioners, many of the experiences associated with psychosis are now understood as ways in which the human mind and spirit respond to confusing, challenging, and often difficult environments and relationships. While much progress has been made, much work remains to be done.

Join ISPS-US at our 2021 Conference and Annual Meeting as we consider the progress that can be made when multiple perspectives are honored in the treatment and understanding of psychosis.

We welcome presentations that examine and build upon rich collaborations between people with lived experience, family members, researchers, and clinicians across theory, practice, and innovation. We especially encourage presentations that acknowledge and address the additional burdens faced by people of color whose efforts simply to live in an increasingly hostile world can lead to psychosis and extreme states. Join us as we seek to reimagine a future that offers greater hope, understanding, and possibility for all people who experience and struggle with extreme states.

This year we plan to include an interactive Creative Healing Space to present an array of therapeutic and creative arts modalities used for treatment, and as forms of self-expression that provide connection, comfort, joy, and healing. These can include origami, visual art, poetry, photography, music, dance, spoken word, and more. This Creative Healing Space was inspired by the ISPS International Congress, to be held in Perugia, Italy in September 2022. With permission, we will take these submissions with us to Perugia next year.

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!

Update: Living with Voices & Visions Virtual Event

The date for the Living with Voices & Visions virtual event has been changed. The event will now be taking place on Thursday, May 6th. Please share the updated poster!

Image description: a poster for the Living with Voices and Visions virtual event. Text copied below.

Join us Thursday, May 6th from 5-6 PM (PST) for an opportunity to learn about the BC Hearing Voices Network, hear personal experiences from those living with voices, visions, and unique experiences, and learn how to participate in local support groups.

This event is open to those who experience voices, visions, or other unique sensory experiences, their supporters, those working in mental health, and any others who are interested!

Speakers include:

Rory Higgs

Rory Higgs is a non-binary artist, writer, and activist living and working in Vancouver. Rory serves as a facilitator for Voices and Visions groups, and is the newly appointed administrator for the BC Hearing Voices Network. Rory’s work on this movement has been published in the Health and Human Rights Journal. 

KC Pearcey

KC has been a voice hearer and vision seer for nearly 15 years. He was a participant in Voices and Visions groups when they first started in Vancouver in 2013 and began co-facilitating the groups in 2018. He is also a Peer Support Worker for Coast Mental Health and has co-facilitated a Voice Hearers group for that organization as well. Additionally, he co-facilitates Living Well with Voices and Unique Beliefs for the North Shore Mental Health team. 

Zoom link: https://vancouvercoastalhealth.zoom.us/j/65896012879?pwd=L0pnb2d3YW9pY2o4Q S9nVmU4UGcvQT09

Questions? Email Gill Walker at gill.walker@vch.ca for more information.

Virtual Event: Living with Voices and Visions – May 6th

UPDATE 19/04: The date for the Living with Voices and Visions virtual event has been changed! The event will now be held on Thursday, May 6th from 5-6 PM (PST).

Join us at a virtual roundtable on Monday, May 3rd from 5-6 PM (PST) for the opportunity to learn about the BC Hearing Voices Network, ask questions, and give your feedback on what you’d like to see at future groups/events! This event is open to everyone, including people who hear voices, see visions, or have other unusual sensory experiences; people who are questioning whether Voices & Visions support groups are for them; supporters and allies; and professionals interested in learning more about the BCHVN.

Details below:

Image description: a poster for the Living with Voices and Visions virtual event. Text copied below.

Join us Monday, May 3rd from 5-6 PM (PST) for an opportunity to learn about the BC Hearing Voices Network, hear personal experiences from those living with voices, visions, and unique experiences, and learn how to participate in local support groups.

Speakers include:

Rory Higgs

Rory Higgs is a non-binary artist, writer, and activist living and working in Vancouver. Rory serves as a facilitator for Voices and Visions groups, and is the newly appointed administrator for the BC Hearing Voices Network. Rory’s work on this movement has been published in the Health and Human Rights Journal. 

KC Pearcey

KC has been a voice hearer and vision seer for nearly 15 years. He was a participant in Voices and Visions groups when they first started in Vancouver in 2013 and began co-facilitating the groups in 2018. He is also a Peer Support Worker for Coast Mental Health and has co-facilitated a Voice Hearers group for that organization as well. Additionally, he co-facilitates Living Well with Voices and Unique Beliefs for the North Shore Mental Health team. 

Zoom link: https://vancouvercoastalhealth.zoom.us/j/65896012879?pwd=L0pnb2d3YW9pY2o4Q S9nVmU4UGcvQT09

Questions? Email Gill Walker at gill.walker@vch.ca for more information.

NEWS: ISPS Conference Dates Extended and Call to Action on Racism and Social Justice in Mental Health

The International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis has pushed back the dates for the upcoming conference in Peruga, Italy. The conference will now be taking place in September 2022. This means that the call for abstracts is currently open. If you would like to submit a proposal for a workshop, panel, or other presentation, you can do so here: https://isps2021.it/call-for-abstract/


McGill University’s Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry has published a call to action on racism and social (in)justice in mental health, which you can read here: https://www.mcgill.ca/tcpsych/network/call-action

This follows on the tail of other recent publications calling for a change in how mental health is understood, for example: the British Psychological Society’s Power Threat Meaning Framework; the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Mental Health’s recent reports, 2017-2020; Harvard’s Health and Human Rights Journal’s 2020 special issue on shifting the paradigm of mental health; and, in BC, the Carnegie Community Action Project’s 2018 report on a new vision for community-based mental health in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The BC Hearing Voices Network stands with these calls to action. We recognize the importance of social and political context in shaping experiences of mental/emotional wellbeing and distress, as well as how these experiences are perceived and responded to. Poverty, racism, sexism and gendered violence, homelessness and housing insecurity, criminalization, displacement from ancestral territory, lack of social or legal protections, and lack of access to food, clean water, sanitation or medical care are just some of the issues that contribute to experiences of mental/emotional distress – including distressing voices and visions.

Voices and visions occur in the context of our lives, and can have different meanings and causes for different people. For some, these experiences are directly or indirectly related to experiences of trauma, injustice, discrimination, and disenfranchisement over our lifetimes. We hope to see lasting efforts to change the aspects of society that overwhelmingly create distress rather than focusing exclusively on changing individual people, which pathologizes understandable reactions to suffering and overlooks the communities we share – and which we share a responsibility to ensure are safe, just, and equal for all.

Submission: “Genesis of a Mad Person,” by Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess

No matter what authority one exercises, one can never fully take possession of another’s story, as long as one knows one’s power (and is not physically contained, or rather detained), one can thwart narrative containment – grab the pen and throw in a plot twist.

In this lyric essay, author Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess weaves together poetry, prose, and prophecy to reflect on the nature of shared and created realities for survivors of trauma. Sankofa writes from the intersection of the Mad, 2SLGBTQA+, and Black liberation movements, punctuating wry observation with cascades of magic and metaphor for a read that is as much disquieting dreamscape as it is social commentary.

The following piece was written on traditional, ancestral and unceded ʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō, Stz’uminus and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) territories, where the author resides.

Content warning: includes references to trauma; incarceration; sexuality; Christianity and Christian imperialism; child abuse, including childhood sexual abuse

Continue reading “Submission: “Genesis of a Mad Person,” by Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess”