What is psychosis and why does it occur? This was the focus of the latest episode of the BBC’s flagship documentary series Horizon, ‘Why Did I Go Mad?’ (2 May 2017, BBC Two, 9pm). A number of our researchers met with the Horizon editorial team to provide advice on the content of the programme late last year, and after the excitement of filming in Durham in January, it was great to finally see the result.

To give you a brief summary, the documentary centres on three people – David Strange, Jacqui Dillon and Rachel Waddingham – who describe what it is like to experience voices and visions, and through conversations with academic researchers, clinicians and experts by experience, explore some of the ways in which psychosis is currently understood and treated. In addition to considering biological explanations for hallucinations and the role of medication in their treatment, it examines the role of psychosocial factors in the onset and continuance of psychosis, as well as recent developments in talking therapies for distressing voices, such as avatar therapy and voice-dialogue.

It also includes a discussion between Jacqui Dillon and our project director Charles Fernyhough on the relationship between voice-hearing and ordinary inner speech or verbal thought. More information about this aspect of Hearing the Voice research can be found here and here.

Ultimately, the documentary makes a strong case for the role of trauma in psychosis, showing how voices and visions are sometimes best understood as a response to traumatic life experiences such as neglect, bullying and physical, emotional and sexual abuse, particularly during childhood.

Why Did I Go Mad?’ is now available to view on iPlayer until 30 June 2017.

What did you think of the programme? We’d love to hear your thoughts, and warmly invite you to leave a comment below or join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #WhyDidIGoMad.

Looking for support?
If you’d like more information about hearing voices after watching Why Did I Go Mad, our Frequently Asked Questions is a good place to start.

Voice-hearing experiences are fairly common and not in themselves a cause for concern. But if you find these experiences continue to cause you significant distress or interfere with your daily activities you should seek the advice of a GP or family doctor and seek other sources of sympathetic support.

In the UK, the Hearing Voices Network offers information, support and understanding to people who hear voices and those who support them. Voice Collective in London also provides some excellent online resources, which are primarily aimed at young people experiencing voices and visions, but are also useful for other age groups.

Many people find it helpful to connect with other people who hear voices. If you live in the North-East of England and are looking for a support group in the region, you may find our map of peer support groups useful. A world map of Hearing Voices groups, provided by Intervoice (the international Hearing Voices Movement) is available here.

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