Psychosis Recovery

Why you should watch Horizon: ‘Why Did I Go Mad?’ – the psychology of voice hearing

On 2nd May, 2017, 9PM, BBC 2 will air a programme with Jacqui Dillon, Chair of the Hearing Voices Network, promising to provide a rich and meaningful approach to understanding why some people hear voices. Jacqui Dillon’s work has seen her talk, publish and effect change around the world.

Why Did I Go Mad? Horizon, BBC2

“For hundreds of years, psychiatry has treated voices and hallucinations as an enemy – regarding them as ‘insanity’ or ‘madness’ and seeing them as something to be quashed and even frightened of. But today, new scientific and psychological insights into how the brain works are leading to a radical rethink on what such experiences are – and how they should be treated.

Horizon follows three people living with voices, hallucinations and paranoia, to explore what causes this kind of phenomena. Providing a rare first-hand insight into these experiences, they reveal just what it is like to live with them day to day. They examine the impact of social, biological and environmental influences on conditions traditionally associated with insanity, such as schizophrenia and psychosis, and within the film they look at how new ways of understanding the brain are leading to a dramatic change in treatments and approaches, and examine whether targeting the root causes of psychosis can lead to recovery. Above all, they try to uncover why it happened to them – and whether it could happen to you.”

The Hearing Voices Network was built from Professor Marius Romme’s belief that the voices people hear relate to their own thoughts. Researchers and health professionals are showing that the key to understanding and resolving voices lies in the ‘content’ of the voices. Rufus May, a clinical psychologist who himself recovered from psychosis, shares an excellent resource here on Talking With Voices, or Voice Dialogue – instead of supressing them, which takes a lot of effort and can often make things worse.

This thinking has informed the most recent publication from the British Psychological Society (2014) Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia which you can download for free.

Recent research shows that the majority of people who hear voices have experienced trauma. Jacqui’s Dillons experiences of surviving childhood sexual abuse and subsequent experiences of using psychiatric services inform her work, and she is an outspoken advocate and campaigner for trauma informed approaches to madness and distress.

Eleanor Longden, whose Ted talk on voice-hearing has been watched over 2.5 million times, had similarly unhelpful experiences when she began using mental health services after starting to hear a running commentary in her head. A major turning point for her was encountering individuals from the Hearing Voices Network, who acknowledged and examined the experiences of trauma and abuse she had experienced as a child and young adult, and how this distress from the past was still being enacted in the present.

 Eleanor says, “It was a long, torturous journey, but once I started to interpret my terror and despair in terms of what I’d survived, I could begin to recover: that my so-called symptoms of schizophrenia weren’t random products of a chemical imbalance, rather meaningful messages from my mind about the unbearable things I’d gone through.”

Eleanor Longden’s 2013 TED talk was featured on the front page of the Huffington Post and named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the ‘20 Online Talks That Could Change Your Life’. In its first year online it was viewed 2.5m times and translated into 33 languages.

Please watch Horizon tonight and share widely!

Stay Involved in Art Thou Well

Read more about psychological understandings or ‘formulations’ of psychosis and related phenomena:

Accepting Voices by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher

Madness Explained and Doctoring the Mind by Richard Bentall
One on One with Richard Bentall in The Psychologist

Rufus May Clinical Psychologist

Living with Psychosis: Recovery for Wellbeing by Elina Baker & Melanie Attwater

Eleanor Longden on Recovery Orientated Approaches in Psychology Today


Jacqui Dillon’s blog

20 years on: Finally our myopic brain obsession is on the wane by John Read

What if Richard Bentall is Right? By Mental Health Cop

The Voice Inside: A Practical Guide to Coping with Hearing Voices by Paul Baker

I'm a British clinical psychologist with a research background. I manage the Greater Manchester i-THRIVE Arts, Culture and Mental Health Programme, part of the national transformation of children's services. I also have an NHS clinical role in Lancaster and Morecambe working with children, young people and families (CAMHS). I began this blog in 2017 to record a WCMT Travelling Fellowship, from a research role at Arts for Health, Manchester Metropolitan University. I began clinical psychology training (DCLinPsy, Lancaster) in 2010, and studied the role of creativity in bipolar disorder, because of the known links, and partly due to my own experiences of creatively managing extremes of mood in adolescence and throughout my 20s. I have worked in several university psychology research departments including Manchester University in suicide prevention, the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University (notable for service user expertise), and on the Dementia & Imagination research programme.

3 comments on “Why you should watch Horizon: ‘Why Did I Go Mad?’ – the psychology of voice hearing

  1. This all sounds fascinating – I can’t believe I never watched the TED talk by Eleanor Longden. I want to see it now.
    I need to figure out if I can tweak my computer settings so I can watch BBC again (I did it a couple years ago, but things might have gotten more strict! ) I hope I can do it! 🙂


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