Category Archives: Mental Health

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: with the following subject line: “HVN Group Application 2019”

No later than : Nov. 26, 2019

VCH Logo         LOGO 


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

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.

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


Peer Support Workers Wanted, Strathcona Mental Health Team, Vancouver

PSWs Wanted Strathcona


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

Peer Support Worker Wanted, South Mental Health Team, Vancouver


CLOSING: June 13, 2014

ONE Contract with South Mental Health & Addictions Services, #220 (West Wing) – 1200 W. 73rd Avenue
~ 40 hours per month, 1 year contract

Job Description: Under the supervision of the Rehabilitation Supervisor or delegate, and in conjunction with treatment personnel, you will work with clients with mental illness with the objective of assisting them to achieve their stated goals. The successful candidate will be a well-organized individual who exhibits initiative, flexibility, sound judgment and good interpersonal skills. Duties include one-to-one work assisting clients in achieving goal(s), acquiring new skills or linking with community resources; communicating all relevant information verbally and in writing to pertinent staff; and attending monthly peer support worker meetings, at the team and centrally.

Qualifications: The successful individual will:
1. have completed a Peer Support Training program or have equivalent training or experience
2. have personal experience receiving services within the mental health system (required)
3. be able to be a role model to people recovering from a serious mental illness by sharing common life experiences and practical information
4. have effective strategies for dealing with stress
5. be able to work cooperatively with mental health staff, consumers and family members
6. be able to work with a culturally diverse population
7. be able to adequately access public transportation and support others with taking transit
8. be comfortable assisting with goals related to physical activity, such a going to the gym
9. be able to present in a professional manner,
10. be empathetic, patient and supportive, and
11. have knowledge of community resources and be comfortable searching for information regarding resources online and over the phone

Duration of this Placement: 1 year with possibility of renewal
You are not required to work at the team or unit where you receive service.
Pay and Hours: $12.00 an hour, up to 40 hours maximum a month (including meetings).
Start Date: July 2014

Closing Date and Location: Please submit a resume and a cover letter to via email/fax/mail:
Katie Maher, Rehabilitation Supervisor
South Mental Health & Addictions Services, #220 (West Wing) – 1200 W. 73rd Avenue,
Vancouver, B.C. V6P 6G5
Phone: 604-269-2731
Fax: 604-266-7134

No later than : June 13, 2014

Only those short listed will be contacted.

Wellness and Mental Health with Regina Casey and Sue MacDonald

Regina Casey and Sue MacDonald talk about wellness and mental health in the video below.

Greetings from the first Canadian National Conference on Peer Support

Hello all,PSW Conference Image

I’ve attended the first two days of the National Conference on Peer Support organized by Peer Support Accreditation and Certification Canada and am looking forward to day three tomorrow.  I’ve been tweeting away about it but wanted to share my experiences on this page also since it feels like such a wonderful privilege to be here.

The keynote address on the first day was delivered by Patricia Deegan, a woman diagnosed with schizophrenia who went on to get a doctorate degree in psychology. She’s written a lot about recovery and I have been a fan for years. This was the first time I got to see her in person.

Her keynote address was called “Peer Staff: Disruptive Innovators”. I won’t attempt to summarize the entire talk, but one of the ways in which she said peer supporters are disruptive to traditional mental health cultures is by blurring the boundaries between health and sickness. Traditionally, in mental health, people saw the well treating the unwell. Peer Supporters challenge these silos and drive home the reality that everyone is really on a continuum.

After the keynote speech I went to a breakout talk that Deegan was delivering titled “Navigating the Dignity of Risk and the Duty to Care”. She talked about the challenge presented when a system that believes in choice and self-determination is confronted with someone making a choice that seems unwise. She gave a detailed example of a person on olanzapine with diabetes who persisted in drinking two litres of sugary Mountain Dew every day despite his team’s efforts to encourage healthier practices.

She talked about two extreme ends of a continuum that service provider responses can fall on. At one end is over protection. In this example, the team could respond by taking charge of the man’s money so that it would be harder for him to buy Mountain Dew. At the other end of the continuum is neglect. In this example, the team could say “Drinking the Mountain Dew is his choice. Let him live with the consequences.”

Deegan says that recovery oriented practice lies somewhere between the neglect and over-protect extremes of the continuum. She said the concepts that help us navigate the continuum are:

1. Duty to Care – we must remain engaged with people no matter what decisions they are making. We don’t walk away and say “Oh well, his choice”. We continue to explore the issue, offer options, talk about pros and cons, educate – do whatever we need to do to stay engaged. Also, we need to document it all so that we are comfortable with risk.

2. Dignity of Risk – this concept comes out of the broader disability rights movement. Deegan talked about how once you have a diagnosis, there is often a medicalization of your entire life and a sense that others need to protect and make choices for you. She noted that people without a diagnosis get to make poor choices and that overprotection stifles growth. It stifles the discovery of limits and potentiality. It’s a kind of toxic help that hurts in the long run.

Choices that seem unwise are hard to deal with but the Duty to Care and Dignity of Risk concepts are tools that can help us avoid extreme responses and be recovery oriented.

Those are some of the things I’ve found interesting at this conference. There have been many other things also but it’s 12:06 Halifax time and I’m thinking I better get to bed soon. There’s a keynote address by Romeo Dallaire at 9:00 am tomorrow which is 5:00 am Vancouver time. Pretty early morning! But I don’t want to miss it. One of the Peer Support Workers from Vancouver who has also come to the conference has been telling me all about how amazing Dallaire is so I want to be there when he speaks.

Good night all!

Renea Mohammed