Hearing Voices Ireland (HVI) was launched in the Metropole Hotel in Cork in 2006. This is a report on the day.
The day was well attended, with a mixture of voice hearers, concerned relatives and friends of voice hearers and professionals, working in the area of voice hearing. We were delighted to see all corners represented, as it helped us to get a broad scope of input on the day. We were a little bit concerned at having only forty people attending, but as it worked out that was just about the right number for the launch to work.
We started off with Greg White and Mary Maddock of the Mind Freedom Ireland (our sponsors) introducing Tracy Millar (Belfast Hearing Voices Network) & Brian Hartnett (voice hearer and peer advocate) who outlined hopes & program for the day.
• To leave the day feeling that some connections have been made and people’s voices have been heard.
• To leave the day with an action plan in place that will guide the development of HVI in the short, medium and long term.
• For our conversations to be a contribution to the tide of international conversations that support alternative approaches to thinking & talking about voice hearing.
• To hopefully have contributed to our sense of community in Ireland.
A message of support from the UK hearing voices network was then read out:-
I have been asked to forward this message of support on the foundation of HVI. From myself and my colleagues: Jacqui Dillon, chair of HVN in England on behalf of the trustees, from Julie Downs, on behalf of the staff and volunteers, from Peter Bullimore, chair of Asylum Associates, and from Dr Sandra Escher and Professor Marius Romme in the Netherlands, we are thrilled to hear of the response to your campaign and salute your efforts in this great cause. Whilst we are sad not to be in Cork today, we wholeheartedly promise you our support and assistance in the future. We also look forward to hearing your stories of today – not least as an inspiration to the Irish community in the UK.
All best wishes from Dr Terry McLaughlin, editor of Asylum Magazine.
This helped set the mood for the day where everyone was encouraged to participate in a caring and supportive environment.
Brian Hartnett (voice hearer and peer advocate) then introduced himself as co presenter / facilitator with Tracy Millar for the day. Brian gave a short description of what voice hearing means to him and how he sees the future of HVI. Brian then played and audio recording of an interview with Derrick Mooney of the Mooney show on RTE1 which was broadcast the day before. This gave everyone a chance to concentrate and listen to the way Brian lives with voices.
We had a short tea break for people to digest this, then Tracy Millar gave an account of her experience with the London and Belfast hearing voices network. We have gained a lot of insight from their experience in setting up and running a network in Ireland and we will continue to strengthen our bond and similar goals.
Small group discussions about what might have arisen for individuals from the day so far and an opportunity to ask questions of guest contributors followed. The feedback was then read out by someone from each group and drafted on to flip charts. We also asked people to jot down three things on ‘post-its’ that people thought of as essential to getting HVI up and running, which Brian and Tracy correlated into key issues to be discussed after lunch.
The key issues raised and discussed by each group were:-
• GROUP ONE: Publicity needs to be ongoing. A database of voice hearers and interested parties needs to be put together. Need to reach out for funding. Early education of realities of voice hearing. Support groups to include family and friends.
• GROUP TWO: Individual experiences respected – everyone different. Good, bad and indifferent experiences valued. Admitting to voice hearing in a trusting environment. Possible buddy system for voice hearers. Sharing info and education about voice hearing. Removal of fear of coming forward as a voice hearer. Democracy in groups. Clarity about aims. Pacing – crawl before walking. Inclusive of all concerned groups.
• GROUP THREE: Free phone Help line. Cork person to go to Belfast for facilitator training. Posters etc in hospitals and facilities. Avail of free publicity in the media. Look to Lotto for funding.
• GROUP FOUR: Should challenge stigma. Value experience of individuals. Some people celebrate ‘the gift’. Provide a caring supportive environment. More education and support for people coming off meds. Soul. Yoga. Reclaim validation.
• GROUP FIVE: Educate the public. Group strength in coming together. A space for people who don’t want voices or who have stopped voice hearing. About meeting needs and sharing. Finding a new language. A place for recovery – support and listening ear. Careful steps. Getting the word out there. Pacing growth.
AIMS & ETHOS: Below is a list of aims and objectives then discussed:-
• Hearing Voices centered. Beyond Stigma. Genius of the intelligent! Absolute acceptance. Recovery from voices. Space to express your subjective experience in confidence without retribution from doctors, nurses, or family and friends (very strong feedback on this issue). Accessibility to all. Love, listening and sharing. Living in the present. Reclaim validation. Soul. Free phone contact. Spreading the word on HVI. Networking with service user movement. Anti stigma. Friendship and sharing
ISSUES: the following issues were debated and prioritized:-
• Geography – location of groups – towns / rural. Reaching out to voice hearers. Language. Picking one or two goals and developing action plan. Clarifying purpose and ethos. Ownership. Empowerment. Community based drop in groups. Links to psychiatric facilities on web site. News letter for HVI
PRIORITIES: The following is the rating for subjects discussed in no particular order:-
• Funding X9, Contacts Database X6, Research X1, Phone line X3, Careers X2, Training of Facilitators X2, Publicity X12, Support group start X11
Obviously the need to publicize and get the groups started is our priority
The final part of the day was to draw up a list of people willing to contribute to a steering committee. The following people volunteered. Terry Lynch (GP and psychotherapist), Hari MCA (SI Dublin), Brian Hartnett (voice hearer and advocate with IAN) and Tracy Millar (facilitator Belfast). This group will confer on upcoming issues like venues and training.
Just before the final break the crucial issue of funding was discussed particularly in the area of training for facilitators of hearing voices self help groups around the country. It was agreed that a report on the day’s events would be drawn up to be used as part of a submission to various bodies and that priority be given to starting groups asap. This funding application is now in progress.
Last but not least we had a wonderful wind down session with shamanic drumming with Thomas Wiegandt. A great end to a great day. Thomas can be contacted on 028 37323.
Thanks to everyone who participated. As you can see above it was a very positive experience for all. To keep you informed of developments sign up to our Newsletter or email Brian Hartnett at firstname.lastname@example.org