Hearing Voices Network

Please note: there is no Vancouver Visions and Voices Group Meeting on Good Friday, April 18th, 2014 because it is a stat holiday.

Hearing Voices Network

by Renea Mohammed

What is the Hearing Voices Network?

The Hearing Voices Movement was begun by Dr. Marius Romme, a professor of social psychiatry, science journalist Dr. Sandra Escher and voice-hearer Patsy Hage in 1987 – after Hage challenged Romme about why he couldn’t accept the reality of her voice hearing experience. As voice hearer Ron Coleman has said, if someone is hearing voices, something real is happening. The Hearing Voices Network began in 1988 with the support of Romme and has since expanded to countries including Wales, Scotland, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Hearing Voices Groups support people in learning ways to live well with their experiences, share strategies, make connections and know that they are not alone. The reputation of the Hearing Voices Network is growing as the limitations of a solely medical approach to voices become better known.

Why am I drawn to the Hearing Voices Network?

I remember a time when I was really struggling with the voices I heard. They were negative, nasty and constant. I was in such distress I was contemplating suicide. I was also on “extended leave”- a form on involuntary treatment taking place in the community that meant I was required to see a psychiatrist and case manager and to take medication. I remember going to my mandatory appointment with the case manager and telling her I needed to find new ways to cope with my voices. Her response was to tell me that the way to cope was to take medication. She then went on to talk about what a good medication I was on.

Only….I was already taking medication. I was still hearing voices. I wished that she had more tools to offer me. Sometimes medications take a long time to work. Sometimes they don’t work at all. Sometimes quality of life is severely impeded by side effects. I like the Hearing Voices Network because it offers more tools. It has the potential to change lives.

BC Hearing Voices Network

The BC Hearing Voices Network had it’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 21, 2013 with representatives from existing local Hearing Voices Network Support Groups. The first local group established in BC is the support group run by North Shore Community Psychiatric Services. The second is run by Vancouver Community Mental Health and Addiction Services through the Peer Support Program. The third is offered in Tertiary Mental Health Services. The movement is growing. A hearing voices group for youth has recently been started by the Unitarian Church. A fifth group is looking to start in the community. The UBC Masters in Occupational Therapy Program is looking at doing a related research project to add to the evidence base for these groups.

Interested in attending?

The group run through Vancouver Community Mental Health and Addiction services is open to anyone with experience seeing visions or hearing voices as well as their allies. You do not have to be a client of the mental health system. It is a peer-led, drop-in support group. For more information, you can call 604-708-5276 or see the flyer below.



The North Shore Group is also open to community members. For information on the North Shore Hearing Voices Network Group you can call: 604-983-6020.

For information on the youth oriented Hearing Voices Network Group run by the Unitarian Church call 604-261-7204 and leave a message for Diana.

Hope you can make it!

QWERTYUIOP: Writing as a Tool of Recovery



Writing As a Tool of Recovery


Winter Hammell

     The whole kit and caboodle…

A small, milky-green pebble.

A shiny piece of blue glass, edges worn smooth by years in the sea. A grey pin-feather. A purple 5¢ stamp. A lump of amber with inclusions: bubbles, a tiny insect. Even the word caboodle itself is part of my collection.

Tangible objects, these, each infused with my memories and feelings. Each item means something more than what it is. More than just “things”, they are “concepts”, too.

And “recovery” is more than only a “concept”. It is as real, and as tangible as a pebble or a feather. It is quantifiable. It is qualitative—

RECOVERY n. (pl. –ies) 1 the act or an instance of recovering; the process of being recovered. 2 the process of overcoming an addiction to drugs etc. 3 the process of recovering from (mental) illness.

Recovery, to me, is bringing back out of the shadows, and into the light of day, my first great love: the love of working

with words. Writing is such a large, important component of

my recovery that I would not be “in recovery” if I was not writing. It is as important as the carefully-concocted drug cocktails, and the mental health team check-ins, and the talk-therapy, and the cognitive-therapy, and the RT and OT groups, and the caring of others, both professional and layperson.

Writing is about more than just teasing apart the knotted ball of blue yarn that is me. It`s more than artistic self-expression, and rediscovering my creative self. It`s more than an aspect of my physical healing, in tandem with my emotional healing. It`s more than re-hard-wiring my brain, and more than placing my historical suffering in context and learning how to keep from traumatizing myself again.

It`s so much more that I almost don`t have the words to encompass it, and have to work especially hard to achieve my goals, which include communicating with others across the vast gulfs between our incredible one-of-a-kind minds, and our briefly intersecting lives.

The mental process of writing itself is a recovery activity that is compelling and fascinating to me. Using the wingnuts, flanges and bolts of nouns, verbs and adjectives (etc.) to construct phrases, sentences and paragraphs that make sense –it`s like playing with Lego: the possibilities are endless.

Like a well-run RT or OT group, writing is engaging,  enjoyable, challenging, and even self-instructive. And having a tangible “object” in my hands afterwards is incredibly satisfying.

When writing, I feel fulfilled – but never satiated, and always want (need) to create more; to build and carve and cast new work out of the bricks, wood and metal (experiences, feelings, and memories) in my mind`s workshop. Copper, cedar and bronze, for some reason, are my favourite materials.

Participating in this “group” is great fun and serious, hard work. Facilitating it at the same time – even though it`s a group of one, mostly – is even more exciting and adds another layer of complexity to an already confusing, byzantine art.

Through my writing I focus on what`s happening now in my life, and in my environment, relate it to what`s happened before, add a theme to be explored (usually around a topical nucleus of mental health), and manufacture an artifact “out of airs and mists” and reality for others to experience.

And, if I have used the right washer with the right bolt, and assembled this to that in the way that does not contradict the laws of writing, which, like physics and math, are set (but, unlike them, are infinitely more malleable, and, magically, more unconstrained when used correctly) then I have succeeded.

Short stories. Essays. Fiction. “Faction”. Through these I am finding my way out of my isolation, better managing my (illness) health, connecting, being “real” – more real

than I sometimes am in person, when I`m uncertain of my place.

Writing, I am recovering.

Not a flag-waver, writing is my cri de coeur against being pigeon-holed and labeled as “sick, crazy, lazy, and not contributing to society” simply because I don`t do the “9-to-5 dance” or heave boxes around in a warehouse. Writing is my contribution. It`s “music”, and “painting”, and “flipping burgers”; it`s “selling houses”, “fixing leaky pipes” and “driving a cab”.

Writing is giving back.

It`s still more… It`s an expression of my love and affection for those who know me, and respect for you, who know me only by my craft.

Because I am recovering I was able to write a children`s story full of fun which did not need to include back-themes about mental illness and recovery.

“THE GREAT SWEET BLISS STINK-OFF” was published last year on rainbowrumpus.org.

It was a delight for me to compose. For, in revisiting my childhood, I found something incredible that I thought was lost forever among the shadows and pain: the wonder of childhood itself.

And my love of caboodle.

© 2014 Dale Hammell – 815 words

Better Days: A Mental Health Recovery Workbook

sunriseclipartBy Craig Lewis

Craig Lewis is a Certified Peer Specialist living and working in Massachusetts.  He has struggled immensely with mental health issues throughout his life, but he has successfully transformed this into a life of wellness. He has embraced his recovery process, producing remarkably beneficial results. He has discovered that he has innate skills and capabilities for helping others in their recovery, and he has been able to help many people improve the quality of their lives, which is life-affirming for him. He does this by tapping into his lived experience to help others transcend their own struggles. He is sincerely committed to his recovery and helping nurture the recovery and wellness of all with whom he comes into contact. Craig is successfully working as part of an outreach team at a human services agency in Boston, Massachusetts. Craig authored the recently published ‘Better Days – A Mental Health Recovery Workbook’ with the hope that the workbook will help those aspiring toward recovery and wellness and also those in recovery, find increased success on their journeys. He also tours the United States and Canada, speaking about his lived experience, sharing his struggles and triumphs to help others.

Below is an excerpt from his book. You can get more information and  purchase the book from the following site:



Sometimes We Struggle

There are days when I feel so bad that I become unable to see things for how they really are. Often my thoughts are twisting and turning throughout a maze of total and brutal negativity. I find myself gasping for air and grasping for a hand to hold onto, yet sometimes it seems that I am very alone.

I ask myself–—is this struggle for wellness and recovery worthy of all my efforts? Why am I dedicating all my hard work and time and effort toward my recovery? What is this recovery that I am fighting so hard for?

It is important for us to think of the big picture. When we work hard to improve our quality of life and strengthen our coping skills, we will experience beneficial results. When we struggle, experience difficulties and question our recovery, we can and will take back our lives and celebrate our progress and accept that sometimes, we will struggle.

Our struggle has meaning and our recovery is here to stay.


Sometimes We Struggle Worksheet

  1. Do you believe that there is meaning and value in your struggling and why?
  1. In your daily life, how do you manage the ups and downs that you face without being thrown off course (give two examples)?
  1. What are three reasons that you are fighting for your recovery? 


I have made countless mistakes over the course of my life. I have damaged others and I have damaged myself.

It is said that time heals all wounds. What does this mean? Is this true?

I think that taking responsibility for our actions can be an empowering process. Each of us possesses the ability to liberate ourselves from the chains of our past. The decisions that we make today and tomorrow are our gateway toward a Better Day and a better life.


Accountability Worksheet

  1. List three ways that your life has been affected by decisions that you have made.
  1. Name one mistake that you have made in your life and what you learned because of it.
  1. List three things that you want to improve in your life and what you can do to make them happen. 

Biting Your Tongue

Today I experienced the emotions of anger and hurt. My hurt feelings have been building up even while I have tried my best to process them. I could feel myself about to boil over like a pot on the stove.

I knew that I had to control myself. I knew that, as bad as I felt at that moment, that in time I would feel relief. I needed to protect myself and manage the intensity of what I was feeling and thinking. I had to do this to protect myself so that I could deal with the issues responsibly once I felt more settled and calm. I had to bite my tongue in order to take care of myself and to protect my life. Only I can do this for me, and only you can do it for you.


Biting Your Tongue Worksheet

  1. Name a situation where you had to bite your tongue and how your life benefited from you holding back your words.
  1. What are three healthy ways that you can calm yourself down when you are angry?
  1. When you are upset, hurt or angry, what can you say to those around you so that they can help you deal with your situation in more healthy ways?

TED Talk: Eleanor Longden Speaks about Hearing Voices

In this 14 minute video, Eleanor Longden does a TED talk on her experience of hearing voices. Hope you enjoy it!

Interview with Sonja Graham on receiving peer support services

In this video interview peer support training student Sonja Graham talks about her experiences receiving peer support services.

Mental Health Matters – Hearing Voices from peerstv

Hearing voices can be a scary thing, but did you know it can also provide comfort to some? In this video, from peerstv, host Shannon Eliot chats with Adrian Bernard about the concept of hearing voices – the good, the bad, and what most people don’t know.

The Link Between Depression and Bad Housekeeping

Girl cleaning the house with a broomThe link between depression and bad housekeeping

by Amanda Berg

Some people when depressed find cleaning their house difficult.  Hell, even getting out of bed feels like climbing the Grouse Grind in the dark, while it’s raining out.  Organizing your house is on the list of those things that you do not wish to do, along with other items such as going to the dentist for a root canal, or seeing your doctor for a colonoscopy. When you are depressed, it is a struggle.  Doing the dishes isn’t high on the list of priorities when you have yourself to take care of, medications to keep track of and meals to prepare so you don’t starve to death after eating cornflakes and milk twenty three days in a row.

Bed is a safe place when you are depressed.  It’s a retreat, a little shelter from the storm.  And the mess beside your safe place soon gets out of hand and grows magically through no fault of your own.

As you survey the mess, you feel bad about yourself.  You compare your bedroom to ones in home décor magazines.  Even the rooms of your alcoholic bachelor friend with towers of beer cans and empty pizza boxes seem tidier than your place.  Then you get more depressed because everyone’s house is cleaner than yours. And it starts a cycle of depression/ messiness.

You can’t clean because you are depressed and you are too depressed to clean.

Take five minutes put on some music and just clean one surface close to you.  It’s probably a night table or your desk.  Just clear it off, wipe it down then go back to bed.  Be proud that you did something.  It’s a start.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and your house isn’t going to be de-cluttered in one day.