Rachel WaddinghamRai Waddingham, who is a member of the editorial board for our new project Integrated Voices, writes:

In my experience, at least, the availability of information on the internet can bring with it both opportunities and risks. To someone hearing voices for the first time, or their loved ones, getting decent information about the experience and the different options out there is a real challenge. Whilst there are many sites I signpost people to, I’m ever aware that it’s a matter of luck as to whether anyone finds these on their own. More than that, if you happen upon a site that encourages a single approach you might leave with the idea that this is all there is. At the moment, there is no single site that gathers together a range of ways of understanding and working with voices. That gap has some serious implications. Information about the full range of options is a key part of informed choice. It is information that can lead us to ask for specific forms of support, and campaign when we find out they’re not available in our local area.

Hearing the Voice is launching a project that has got me both excited and daunted (called Integrated Voices). Its aim is deceptively simple – create a clear, balanced and impartial website with a range of modules that focus on different approaches to understanding or supporting people who hear voices. A website where we are not pushing or promoting any particular option, but are laying them out on a buffet table and trusting people to find the ones that suit them best. A website that is not overloaded with information, that is easy to navigate and signposts people to further sources of information on the approaches that interest them. Ultimately, in the jungle that is the internet we want people to find ideas that could really work for them.

From the way I write, I hope you can see why I’m excited. I really feel this could be a useful resources and am glad to be supporting them in developing it. My nerves are real, though. One of the reasons this site does not already exist is that it’s a massive undertaking. There is so much information and so many possibilities that knowing where to start is difficult. More than this, I’m also keenly aware that whilst we’re aiming for an impartial site, none of us are neutral. We all have our interests and perspectives. If we were to sit in a room for a year and design the site ourselves our biases would be clearly visible in the content of the site. As human beings, we’d skew the information without even realising it. All of the choices made by the editorial team have consequences, and if we want the site to be as useful to as many people as possible in our community we need your help.

 Consultation Events

It is only right that we speak to as many different people as possible before we even begin planning the Integrated Voices website. So, before our pens touch the paper to draw up content ideas we’re going out and about to hold three consultation events, in Bradford, London and Newcastle upon Tyne. These events are a chance for people who hear voices and the friends and family who support them to share what they think would be useful from a site. If your work involves supporting people who are distressed by their voices, we’d also love to hear from you.

Facilitated by Mary Robson, Victoria Patton and myself, we’ll be doing our best to create welcoming spaces where we can think together about your hopes (and fears) for the site. We can begin to build up a picture of the information and topic areas that you feel are essential, as well as the things you feel we should either avoid or be very careful of. If you would like to get involved in these events, information about dates, times and venues can be found at the bottom of this post.

Online survey

For those who either can’t or don’t want to take part in these events, we also have an online survey for anyone who is interested in this project. The survey is available to complete here. Share it with your friends, family, clients, support workers, CPN and anyone you think might have an opinion.

 Why take part?

Whilst later on in the process we will be convening focus groups to help us develop and test the site, and will be able to offer vouchers in thanks for the work done, at this stage we hope people will take part because they feel that this could be an important resource and want to help shape it. We can offer reimbursement of reasonable travel expenses and some refreshments at the consultation events, but above and beyond that we’re asking for your support to help ensure this resource is as useful as possible. Our commitment to you is that we will listen to the feedback and use it in a meaningful way to develop the site, and ensure there are opportunities during the project to get more involved.

One thing I hate about consultation is the number of events that talk to us after decisions have already been made – those tokenistic events where we’re being asked to rubber-stamp something that we neither want nor agree with. Those events where our voices aren’t heard. This project’s success rests on our ability to engage with as many people as possible and – most importantly – to listen.

So, whether you fill in the survey or come to a consultation event, we’re looking forward to hearing from you.

Hearing the Voice will be holding three open meetings to discuss Integrated Voices with voice-hearers and those who support them in Bradford, London and Newcastle upon Tyne. The events will take place at the following venues and times:

Bradford
Thursday 5th October 2017, 1-3pm

Mind in Bradford
Tradeforce Building
Cornwall Place
Bradford
West Yorkshire
BD8 7JT

London
Friday 6th October 2017, 2.30-5pm

National Council for Voluntary Organisations
Society Building
8 All Saints Street
London
N1 9RL

Newcastle upon Tyne
Thursday 12th October 2017, 1pm-3pm

The Recovery College Collective
5th Floor, Broadacre House
Market Street
Newcastle upon Tyne.
NE1 6HQ

If you would like to attend one of these events, please let us know in advance by registering here. We hope you can make it!

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