Today has been designated as World Hearing Voices Day to raise awareness of the experience of hearing voices.
Although the stereotype is that hearing voices is associated with mental illness, the majority of people who hear voices do not have mental illness and are never in need or help or assistance because of their experiences.
There is now a world-wide hearing voices movement that aims to provide an alternative to the medical model (which has traditionally seen ‘voices’ as symptoms) and reframe them as part of the rich tapestry of human existence.
The movement has a curious beginning. Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme was challenged by one of his patients who had found that her own explanation of her voices gave her far more relief than the psychiatric explanation.
Romme discovered that many other voices hearers had this experience, and, consequently, he and a voice hearer discussed this experience on a Dutch television chat show.
The show was flooded with callers who also heard voices, the majority of whom had never needed medical help.
From this, the Hearing Voices Network was founded in the UK to support voice hearers, and Romme has written a number of books on the subject.
Accepting Voices (ISBN 9781874690139) was co-written with journalist and now psychiatric researcher Sandra Escher and provides advice and information for those who experience voices.
Many voice hearers who do find their voices distressing, will often use both psychiatric help, and the help of non-psychiatric support groups to manage their experiences.
ABC Radio’s All in the Mind recently had a special on the science and culture of hearing voices and the transcript of the show is available online.