Wanted: Hearing Voices Network Support Group Facilitator

Wanted: Hearing Voices Network Support Group Peer Facilitator

Closing:  Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019

Contract with: The CI&I Peer Support Program (Voices and Visions). Vancouver Coastal Health.

Location of work: Various sites in Vancouver.

Duration of placement:  1 year with potential to renew

Rate of Pay: $15 per hour (you are paid $30 per session).

The Vancouver Visions and Voices Groups are a peer-led support groups based on the International Hearing Voices Network. Their aim is to be a place where people who hear voices or see visions can give and receive support, share techniques for living well with their experiences and/or explore the meaning those experiences have for them. The groups are facilitated by peers who support the smooth functioning of the group and make Hearing Voices Network resources available to participants.

Summary of Responsibilities

  • Set-up of room and facilitate support group meetings – ensuring meetings run smoothly
  • Be open to a range of ways of understanding experiences
  • Ensure everyone has a chance to speak
  • Draw on Hearing Voices Network resource materials in discussions and make these resources available to participants
  • Share personal experience for the benefit of the group or individuals

Skills and Abilities Required

  • Lived experience of hearing voices, visions or having other unusual sensory experiences
  • Willingness to take group facilitator training & also attend an orientation to the Hearing Voices Network
  • Excellent listening and communication skills
  • Ability to attend sessions consistently and be highly reliable in attending sessions you’ve signed up for
  • Successful completion of a criminal record check (organized by us)

Time Commitment

Community groups run twice a month during the day. Our hospital group runs weekly Tuesday evenings. You would be part of a rotating team of facilitators which means you would not be attending every session for each group and so have some flexibility with your schedule. You can also choose which groups you are available for. Our groups are facilitated by teams of two Peers.

Start Date: ASAP

To apply:

Please submit a resume and cover letter to:

Renea Mohammed, Peer Support Program, Consumer Initiative Fund, Vancouver Coastal Health, #200-520 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4H5, (Telephone 604-708-5276; Faxes accepted to: Attention: Renea Mohammed, 604-874-7661)

If you wish to email your application send to: renea.mohammed@vch.ca with the following subject line: “HVN Group Application 2019”

No later than : Nov. 26, 2019

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11th World Hearing Voices Congress is in Montreal for 2019 – Save the Date

Hi all,

The 11th World Hearing Voices Congress will be in Montreal this year (2019) from Nov. 11 to Nov. 13th. Please see the “save the date” posted below. Also, for more on hearing voices, check out the BC Hearing Voices Network page at bchearingvoicesnetwork.wordpress.com

world hearing voices congress in montreal - save the date-page-001

Recovery: Bipolar & Substance Use

By Pauline



Bonjour, I’m Pauline. It’s a privilege to offer my experience to your understanding of bipolar and dual diagnosis with substance abuse. I once self medicated with alcohol but now have 11 years of sobriety. May I begin by respectfully acknowledging the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations on whose traditional and unceded territories I live, work and play.

I’m a 55 yr old mother of 3, Nani-Ji to a half Punjabi Grandson, I’ve spent 35 yrs being the wife of a saint. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, teacher, mentor and colleague. Many people are affected by my having this soul sickness. Besides social dysfunction I have suffered from denial which presented a barrier to accessing care and finding interpersonal healing.

In the last 16 yrs I’ve been on 10 meds, now fine tuned on 3. Honing my insight I’m at my healthiest yet with the expertise of my psychiatrist and psychologist.
It was far easier to relinquish alcohol and gain a clear mind than give up the highs of mania. I had resisted adequate treatment fearing “a root canal of my soul”. To compound denial my eccentricities were encouraged by all but those closest to me. I was lauded for my flamboyance, generosity and humour.

Coercion to step up treatment occurred in 2014 when for one day I found myself psychotic after many sleepless nights in pain. I was rescued by my family and kept safe in 5 point restraints over night. This, my only hospitalization, lasted 1 month. Besides avoiding hospitalization the imperatives to accept aggressive treatment also include avoiding depression and dementia both associated with brain burnout from highs. Less ups means less downs. Depression is waking to the disgust within the nostrils of my rotting body. It is the compulsion to take all my pills and slip under the bath water, a profound inertia confining me to days of indecision and bird watching from the sofa. Where can one find hope? In the words of Tagore; “Hope is the bird who feels the light and sings while the dawn is still dark”. For patients suffering mental illness hope is the gift that treatment extends into the darkness. To the many scientists and clinicians who have played a part in this miracle of healing I give my deepest gratitude.

Treatment resulted in dampening my inner world of symbols and connections. Purpose and significances I now share with others. I am abstinent of spirituality; which has been replaced with reasoned atheism and measured forays into transcendence. I still write poetry but much less prolifically. And I am more objective about their quality.

POSITIVE trends with medications, exercise and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy);

Ecstasy is replaced with peace
Unpredictability becomes constancy
Impulsivity is stayed with pause
Multitasking concedes to completing one
Irritability softened into patience
Restlessness is answered by acceptance
Overconfidence yields to humility
Bragging surrenders to confidentiality
Interrupting quiets for listening
Over-sharing is set aside for curiosity
A monologue of opinions opens to dialogue Gregariousness settles in self contentment
Flirtation returns to loyalty

*Which brings me to an awkward taboo; dark secrets of affairs and a high divorce rate associated with bipolar. In desperation at age 45, I persuaded a gynaecologist to remove both ovaries (the source of testosterone) in order to tame my libido. AND I am ever so much better behaved now that I’m an “it”. Where were we in the transformation?

The clown bows to equanimity
Extravagance levels into moderation
Risk taking is tempered with caution
Selfishness imbued with empathy
Insomnia crushed by sonorous coma

I don’t miss drinking whatsoever but I do miss my highs.I doubt myself when I am feeling good to better, worried I’m escalating. Rebuilding self-trust is by one deserved day at a time. I am grateful to have got a grip before I lost everything I cherish. I am thankful for effective treatment, for wholeness and the chance to renegotiate my identity and rediscover my soul.

Peer Support: Words that Resonate

On October 13, the VCH Consumer Involvement & Initiatives, Peer Support Training Class of  2016-17, celebrated their graduation. Below is a word cloud based on words that resonated for grads and guests when they thought of peer support.

PSW Grad 2016-17 Words that Resonate

Reflections on Belief and Anxiety


By Renea Mohammed

The other day, I was watching a TV series called The Affair. In one of the episodes, a character was asked if he believed in God. He answered that he thought that if someone believes in God, then he has made God real by bringing His presence into the world through his belief. I had never thought of it that way before. I think it validates the notion of faith, though perhaps faith needs no validation.

It also made me think about how we can bring other things into the world through belief. It made me think about anxiety. We can give our fears reality simply through belief. If we imagine something bad, we have made it materialize in our life, if only in our head and heart.

On the flip side though, if we believe in positive things, we also bring their presence into the world. That, I think, is a comforting thought.

Hearing Voices Group Makes a Difference




By Renea Mohammed

I recently spoke to someone who hears voices. She prefers that her name not be used and that she be identified by the pseudonym: West Coast Girl. She was diagnosed with schizencephaly, an extremely rare developmental birth defect characterized by abnormal slits, or clefts, in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain and which, in her case, has lead to the experience of hearing voices – voices that no one else can hear. The voices left her questioning what was real and what was not.

She also felt isolated by the experience and was thrilled to find a group made up of other voice hearers. She told me she was “so happy from the first meeting”. Everything people were saying related to what she was experiencing. She felt a sense of security in the group. She was not alone. People were saying things that “really clicked”.

She learned a new coping strategy: take a problem and put it in a box. Put the box out of reach. Keep it closed. Then, when you are ready, bring it out and deal with it.

She’s also developed her own strategies. She prays to St. Jude, the Patron Saint for impossible situations: the saint to pray to when things just look like they won’t turn out well. When she’s struggling she prays every day for 9 days. She tries to keep her mind focussed on prayer when she is stressed. She tries to get her brain calmed down through the process. She says she does it at bed time and it really helps. It’s the strongest coping tool she’s found so far. When things work out, she gives thanks that the problem was solved.

She’s shared this approach in the group and also heard about how others cope. She looks forward to going. When I asked her if she’d recommend it to someone else, she said she would.

The group West Coast Girl attends is a North Vancouver support group based on the International Hearing Voices Network. Similar groups have sprung up in Vancouver Community and in Tertiary Mental Health Services. The Fraser Health Authority is also looking at starting a group as is Victoria.

The Hearing Voices Movement that lead to the development of Hearing Voices Network Support Groups 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 one voice hearer, Ron Coleman, has said, if someone is hearing voices, something real is happening. The Hearing Voices Network bean in 1988 with the support of Romme and has since expanded to countries and regions 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 know.

For information:

About the North Vancouver Hearing Voices Group call: 604-984-5000, extension 5167

About Vancouver Hearing Voices Network Groups call: 604-708-5276

Community Inclusion

Working imageBy zerom seyoum

Twelve years ago I was in the hospital. Some of us had day leaves and used to go to the Tri-city mental health center at Port Coquitlam. One day the occupational therapist invited the manager of the Home depot at Coquitlam to talk to us.  He introduced himself to us and he said that he has a brother who suffers from mental illness and that he empathizes with us and understands what we were going through. He was passionate speaker. Then he said he would give us an opportunity to work at the Home Depot at Coquitlam that he manages, for three months on trial basis. And if we proved that we were good at it, and prove ourselves to be competitive he would hire us to work there at the same level as the other employees. We were 11-12 patients.

It had different work-areas and we were assigned to our interest areas. The work was doing the same thing over and over and was very repetitive. None involved mental manoeuvring or deep mental thinking. Mine was carrying items up and down the shelves. When customers want something from the shelf I went on the ladder up to the shelves and bring down the item. Some times when we have new arrivals I had to find a place for them on the shelves. The shelves are two to three stories high. The whole day I am carrying up or bringing down appliances. Every day I was covered with sweat.  There was only one person whom I reported to. I approached him only when I had a problem. He never supervised me and never asked what I had been doing during the day. I was on my own. I was surprised to find out that although we were on trial basis we were insured.

After three months I was told if I wanted I would be hired. I had a second thought. One day after working for three to four hours I was lifting an air conditioner to a two story high shelf on the ladder. I reached the last shelf and I was trying to put the air conditioner on the shelf. My face was covered with sweat, my legs were trembling, my hands shaking, all my energy was drained. My hands gave up on me and the air conditioner plummeted down to the ground breaking many expensive items on its way. I didn’t know what to do. After two to three hours I told my supervisor without knowing what he was going to say. He just said “it is good you told me, it will be covered by our insurance. You see I am diabetic on insulin. I need to eat every few hours especially when I am doing such hard work. There was no opportunity to do that. So I declined the opportunity to be employed because of my physical health limitations and not of my mental health short comings. Seven or eight of the patients, were hired and started working there.

The opportunity given to us to work at Home Depot was one of its kind and what I call community inclusion.

Once a patient is stable on his medications s/he can adjust to a routine timetable.. We work with loyalty, honesty devotion and diligence. As long as the job requires doing the same thing over and over we are second to none. Two three weeks ago Tim Horton’s was showing off its support for the mentally ill and how satisfied they were with the work their mentally ill did. The people with mental illness were working as dish washers, mopping the floor and cleaning the tables. This work at Tim Hortons is example of “Community inclusion.”  Experience shows given the opportunity of work as community inclusion, we have proved we are no less workers than anybody else. But we differ in educational background, social background, work experience and cultural back ground. So we are not limited to mopping or wiping tables.