Category Archives: Voice Hearing

BBC’s ‘In the Mind’ Series


I haven’t written anything in a little while but hopefully that should be fixed over the next week (workload depending). Anyway, this brief post is a slight departure from the normal foray in sleep and everything related to it. I wanted to bring people’s attention to the series of mental health documentaries, short films and portrayals of serious mental illnesses been shown on the BBC over this month. You can find a summary of all of the programs which have already been aired, and are yet to be aired here:

The hour long documentaries / films follow people who have suffered from mental illness in some form of another and create a narrative for the viewer to follow. The aim is to educate and through this hopefully reduce the stigma surrounding in general.

It’s great to see that these documentaries have tackled issues which receive less attention in the media such as postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder. The former is a disorder which I frequently come across in my reading but which I had no real understanding of. Although an hour is hardly enough to really get to grips with how these disease manifest and impact on a wide variety of different peoples’ lives, the documentaries on biplolar disorder and postpartum psychosis do provide us a privileged window into the lives of people, and their loved ones, fighting with mental illness. Admittedly, it is hard to watch certain scenes and it personally brings back familiar experiences from my own family, both as a child and as an adult.

Also, if anyone is interested, Prof. Richard Bentall has given his own opinion on the BBC’s depiction of bipolar disorder as primarily a biological disorder ( He acknowledges the role of drugs in the recovery of very ill individuals but argues that a focus on the biological aspect of mental illness does very little to help with stigma (e.g. it creates a dichotomy of the sick and the healthy). I agree in the sense that the documentaries I have managed to watch so far focus on the severe stages of mental illness and neglect the broad spectrum of mental illness from health to hospitalisation. They give people a glimpse into mental health but perhaps see it as if through a window into the ‘other side’. However, I would also argue that these documentaries give understanding of what it means to be given a diagnosis of a mental illness and how individuals and their families deal with this. In this sense, they help to break down boundaries between stigmatised terms, such as ‘psychosis’, with no human experience to attach to them. It is because of this I would suggest people watch at least one of the documentaries being shown and currently on iPlayer.

Anyway, I just wanted this to be brief and not a matter of me typing lots of stuff into the ether of wordpress. One last thing, I also want to give a link to a really useful link about the role of drawing in talking and dealing with mental health (here Although her work isn’t included here but I personally found the drawings of Allie Brosh particularly helpful and a good explanation of what it is to live with depression ( Please check some of these out, and share them with people who might find them helpful, educational, or simply interesting.

Inquisitive Tortoise


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Filed under Media, Psychology, Schizophrenia, Voice Hearing

Hearing the Voice at Durham Book Festival, October 2013

I was going to write something about the exciting Hearing the Voice events, held at the Durham Book Festival, this year; however, it seems it is already here in a far superior format.

Hearing the Voice at Durham Book Festival, October 2013.

I hasten to add there are also a number of other interesting talks and discussions going on at the book festival, which is taking place in and around Durham from the 2nd October up until the 29th October.


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Filed under Literature, Voice Hearing

What is it like to Hear Voices? A questionnaire study

A research study looking into the experience of hearing voices. Click the link below to find out more:

What is it like to Hear Voices? A questionnaire study.

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Second Meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research: Durham University 12 / 13th September

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to attend the ‘Second Meeting of the International Consortium on Hallucination Research’ at Durham University where researchers from all over the world discussed hallucinations of all modalities. Through this I was able to meet some rather interesting and inspiring individuals connected to the Hearing the Voice movement (HtV) (more of this in my next post). Although I felt quite out of my depth speaking to experts in the field it was really exciting to get a chance to talk to those people who, up until this point, I could only refer to as citations in one of my essays. As a psychology geek I was truly in my element, even if my courage to talk to the more eminent researchers failed me several times before success started to set in… Admittedly it was ‘slightly’ overwhelming to be surrounded by so many experts in the field, but as a student I was able to learn so much about not just hallucination research but the scientific process in action.

My interest in the work of the ‘Hearing the Voice Network Durham’ has existed since its genesis nearly two years ago in 2011, and the conference reinforced many of the ideas the Durham network had already advocated. The ‘HtV’ movement in Durham is a multidisciplinary group that aims to consider auditory hallucinations (voice-hearing) from different perspectives and to understand these complex phenomena as more than a symptom of schizophrenia and other psychiatric and neurological disorders. Through a volunteering with this group, I have become influenced by their work and gained some hands-on experience with some rather cool equipment (fMRI is oddly cosy when you get used to the noise…). It has sparked the notion that hearing voices need not be considered pathological or tied to psychosis.

My first introduction to hallucinations being so much more than a symptom of schizophrenia came through a talk by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher. These two social psychiatrists from the Netherlands who have worked with voice-hearers and been instrumental in changing the way we look at auditory verbal hallucinations (AVHs). The aspect of their talk back in 2011 that caught me and still intrigues me the most today is that ‘hearing voices’ is not by itself a sign of mental disturbance. On the contrary, it can have a beneficial impact on an individual’s life and almost as many as 10-15% of the population experience the perception of hallucinatory voices while still being regarded ‘healthy’. Admittedly, this is by no means the majority, but the fact that this classic symptom of madness could be seen as a positive force in a sizeable number of people fascinated me.

Ultimately, the conference captured this ethos, and although there was considerable talk about alleviating distress in clinical voice hearers, there was also the prevailing opinion that an individual and their voices can reach harmony. This point is clearly shown in the case of Eleanor Longden, a voice-hearer who suffered with voices and face institutionalisation only to gain full control of her life again. Her recently published TedTalk describes this better than I could attempt to:

I realise I have touched on quite a few issues in very brief detail (and I haven’t touched on about the part students can play in this arena yet), but that shall be a job for my next few posts.


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Filed under Schizophrenia, Voice Hearing