Hearing Voices Group Makes a Difference

 

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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.

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Living with Schizophrenia

Guest blogger Amy Kay sent the story below to us re: her experiences living with schizophrenia. She has a website too and you’ll find a link to it at the end of the article. Enjoy!

"Rising"  Recovery is about rising upward, again and again.

Hello!

I would love to feature my blog on your website or at least share my story.

This is my personal story of living with schizophrenia:

I used to tell people “I have a bad brain.”

I am not going to say I suffer from schizophrenia but rather I endure and cope with it.

My name is Amy Kay and I have schizophrenia. I do not want to hurt others or myself. Neither do I hear voices and I no longer live in a delusional world.

In 2008 during my initial psychiatric breakdown I did live in a delusional world. In this world I believed I was Mother Earth. I felt I was responsible for taking all souls to heaven with me. I was afraid that my family and friends were trying poison me. I ran away from them. They called the cops and that is how I ended up in the psychiatric ward.

My dad drove from Mobile Alabama to Orlando Florida to take me home with him. During this time I had no insurance so I could not afford the medicines to control my brain disorder. I became fearful that my step mom was trying to kill me. I ended up back in the psychiatric ward. This time in Mobile Alabama.

They put me in a group home. I got my medications straightened out. I am consumer at Altapointe. They have a place for people to get medications for cheap without insurance. So I got my medicines from there until I get insurance.

Today everyone tells me that I am handling my mental illness very well! Sometimes I feel depressed and I have trouble getting close to people. My thoughts can be disorganized. My memory is not always great. Even though I have this disorder I do more than just cope. I take my medications, receive counseling and have a good support system.

I control schizophrenia! It does not control me! Recently I started a blog chronicling my life and how this condition slowly reared it’s ugly head.

I want to inspire people like me that we can live full productive lives! Until recently I would not have attempted to write a blog. However with the encouragement of friends I found that I was more than capable at this endeavor.

Life is difficult. Even more so with a brain disorder but having a fulfilling life is possible!

Thanks for your consideration!

Regards,

Amy

http://voiceofaschizophrenic.blogspot.com

Peer Support Word Cloud – Generated by Grads & Guests from the Class of 2013-14

Hi all,

Happy New Year!

My resolution is to update this blog more frequently and, to start things, off, I’d like to share with you the Word Cloud that was generated by Grads and Guests of our Peer Support Training Class of 2013-14. They had their big celebration in the fall and at it, folks were asked to list words that resonated for them when they thought of peer support. The image below is what they came up with. Enjoy!

PSW Word Cloud 2013-14 vers3

World Suicide Prevention Day Twit Chat, Sept. 10 at 5 pm PST

World Suicide Prevention Day: One World Connected

Wednesday, September 10 at 5pm Pacific time join a special #mhsm tweetchat on self-management and resiliency for suicide prevention in bipolar disorder.

Hosted by Sandra Kiume Dawson of @unsuicide and PsychCentral, a suicide attempt survivor living well with bipolar, in collaboration with participating clinicians, peer researchers, and academics from UBC’s CREST_BD bipolar disorders research group.

All are welcome. A Twitter account is required. To learn how to participate in a tweetchat visit http://tweetchat.com.

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Peer Support Workers Wanted, Strathcona Mental Health Team, Vancouver

PSWs Wanted Strathcona

DOWNLOAD PDF OF PSWS WANTED STRATHCONA BY CLICKING HERE

Announcing the Hearing Voices Network Study Club

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you know about the Hearing Voices Network Study Club. Details are in the flyer below. This group is open to everyone. Cheers:)

Study Club Flyer