On 2nd May, 2017, 9PM, BBC 2 will show 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.
A lot of 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 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 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 in 2013 held a TED talk on voice hearing which 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!
Read more about psychological understandings or ‘formulations’ of psychosis and related phenomena:
Accepting Voices by Marius Romme and Sandra Escher
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
What if Richard Bentall is Right? By Mental Health Cop