Hearing voices is an international network that represents a different approach to working with people who have unusual sensory experiences – hear voices or have visions or unusual tactile sensations. The innovative method – “Hearing Voices” is based on group work whereby the psychiatric care users have the opportunity, based on equality, to share their experiences and approach their problems – for which they are being discriminated against and often isolated from the rest of society – in a different way. The emphasis is on “decoding” voices so that people with this kind of burdensome experiences would strengthen and so that the quality of their lives would improve. The results of applying this approach are numerous and very useful: better sleep, better communication with others, developing self-confidence, accepting oneself, better coping with problems…
“Prostor” and our partner – association “Metanoia” from Sarajevo have in 2014 become the official representatives of Hearing Voices network for West Balkans. This network is one of the world’s leading reformatory movements in the field of psychiatry, promoting approaches to mental health that are based on personal experiences and on respecting human rights. “Prostor” is in charge of forming a regional network under the patronage of organization “Intervoice”, the leading body of Hearing Voices network. As a first step in forming a network in Serbia we organize as series of lectures and trainings designed for psychiatric care users and mental health professionals, and also volunteers and service providers in local communities.
Basic form of action of Hearing Voices network are self-help groups and peer support groups. According to the same principle, psychiatric care users within “Prostor” will be trained to organize and facilitate such groups and thus directly improve their own condition. The first groups of this kind have emerged from pioneer work of Professor Marius Romme and Doctor Sandra Esher during the 80s in Nederland.
Most significant goals of the Hearing Voices movement are: raising public awareness of human rights issues of persons who hear voices and have other unusual experiences, encouraging and strengthening psychiatric care users as well as the professionals who support them, informing the society about the meaning of voices, educating people on this topic and decreasing ignorance and fear. It is important to educate both persons who have mental health difficulties and professionals who engage in this issue by searching for alternative approaches that might contribute to a recovery from mental health difficulties.
A number of personal confessions testify about the transformation that people have experienced thanks to the Hearing Voices movement:
“Now I can talk to my voices and answer them. Before, I just listened. And now I don’t drink anymore.”
“I sleep better. I listen to my voices more.”
“My social skills have improved since I started coming to these groups.”
“These groups have changed my entire relationship with my own self. I don’t need to act anymore. This approach gives me confidence.”
“I am not being abused so much anymore since I started coming here.”
“Here dominates great mood which I always take with me and which helps me at home too.”
“When you realize that you’re not strange, that similar things are happening to other people… group members have made it possible for me to normalize and realize that it is possible to have a fulfilled life, regardless of the voices.”
“You’re not alone.”