On 18 October 2019, the Archbishop of Canterbury hosted ‘Faith and Mental Health: a Christian Response’ at Lambeth Palace. Seeking to tackle stigma and develop support within faith communities, the conference featured workshops on topics such as mental-health concerns in BAME communities; LGBTQ+ people and mental health; sexual abuse, trauma, and mental health; offenders’ mental health; and poverty, social exclusion, and mental health.
Our very own Chris Cook delivered the keynote address, arguing that ‘Jesus would see mental health as a priority within his mission’. He also contributed to the supporting material on the Church of England’s website, conducting two video interviews with Christians that have suffered from mental health problems. You can watch these here.
The conference saw the launch of a ten-day series of reflections on faith and mental health, which can be used at any point throughout the year. These articles were written by Chris Cook and are accompanied by ‘have a go’ habits from Ruth Rice. Day four features reflections on hearing voices and can be read on the Church of England website.
24-26 October 2019 | Ecole Normale Supérieure 45 rue d’Ulm | Paris | France
When we describe as hallucination what others say ‘hear’ or ‘see’, we immediately put ourselves in the medical perspective, which since the advent of psychiatry, has understood this phenomenon as a perception disorder (Esquirol, 1817). While this concept has certainly evolved since the 19th century, we are still inclined to approach the hallucinatory phenomenon from what it lacks: objectivity, exteriority, reality. It is still today as a psychopathological fact that hallucination is first and foremost studied, at the risk of limiting its analysis to the individual level.
In contrast, the terms of voices and visions, which refer in the West to a period before the advent of psychiatry, have continuously been mobilized in order to qualify the hallucinatory phenomenon outside a psychopathological perspective (Shanon, 2002), or even in reaction to any form of pathologization (Romme & Escher, 1993). Beyond a simple question of vocabulary, looking at ‘voices’ and ‘visions’ is therefore an attempt to free oneself from the medical tradition to approach from other perspectives what the subject says ‘hear’ or ‘see’. This ‘other discourse’ has also been supported by historical, anthropological and philosophical approaches, which have seen it as something other than a ‘perception without object’. Without denying the methodological divisions that traditionally distinguish these disciplines, these days aim to bring them together around their common desire to approach voices and visions beyond the medical perspective. Thus, from a comparative perspective, it will be necessary to document the different modes of ‘socialization of hallucinations’ (Dupuis, 2019) – i.e. the vectors by which collectives inform their content, their symbolic function and the relationship that is maintained with them – in order to identify and question the relationships that human societies have with hallucinations and what the latter reveal to us of the societies that implement them.
First of all, historians must have emphasized the institutional, theological or aesthetic functions that voices and visions may have played at different times, but also to have proposed another history of psychiatry and psychology (Carroy, 2012) which, far from being limited to the pathogenesis of hallucinations, explores its relationship with dreams (Maury, 1861) or psychotropic substances (Moreau de Tours, 1845).
Sociology and anthropology have shown that, far from being reducible to the biological and psychological dimensions to which the medical perspective is confined, ‘voices’ and ‘visions’ constitute true social facts (Durkheim, 1894). The meaning and place attributed to them originate outside individuals, in collective ways of doing and thinking. In this perspective, hallucinations can be approached as the product of ‘techniques du corps’ (Mauss, 1936) that reveal in a particularly prominent way the articulation between the individual and the collective.
This desire to contextualize ‘voices’ and ‘visions’ can finally be found in contemporary philosophy which, after having long reduced hallucination to a sceptical problem – are our perceptions true? -now emphasizes that ‘what plays a role in the hallucination, as a general rule, is not the dubious truth of the perceived, but its reality’ (Benoist, 2017). In this sense, returning to ‘voices’ and ‘visions’ means abandoning the traditional questions of the philosophy of perception, to question the way in which hallucinations participate in perceived reality through their epistemic (Gonzalez, 2004), aesthetic or pragmatic (Thomas & Leudar, 2000) functions.
What place is given to ‘voices’ and ‘visions’ by the human societies across time and space? Through what techniques and for what purposes do collectives seek to induce, control or eliminate them? What does their treatment reveal about the social, symbolic, and economic infrastructures of a collective? Through which epistemic, aesthetic or pragmatic functions do they participate in the institution of a common reality? It is to these questions that these study days will attempt to formulate answers, through a dialogue between anthropologists, historians and philosophers.
Wednesday 23 October 2019 | 10AM-4PM | St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford | Manor Road | Oxford | OX1 3UJ
Organised by Roz Austin and David Crepaz-Keay (Co-Leads of the Educational Voice-hearing Network) through the Collaborating Centre of Values-based Practice in Health and Social Care.
On 23 October, the Educational Voice-Hearing Network will be delivering an all-day seminar on ‘Supporting Voice-Hearers in the Workplace’ at St Catherine’s College, Oxford University.
Lord Dennis Stevenson
Debbie Richards (Managing Director of Mental Health Services and Learning Disabilities, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust)
Dr David-Crepaz-Keay (Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion, Mental Health Foundation)
The seminar will cover the following areas:
Employers who provide inclusive workplaces: The role of Employment Law and the Disability Discrimination Act
Developing ‘Reasonable Accommodations’ for voice-hearers
Issues of stigma and discrimination in the workplace
Limited places are available. If you would like to reserve a space, please contact Roz Austin.
Getting to the seminar:
When you arrive at St Catherine’s College, please go to the Porter’s Lodge, where there will be signposts directing you to the seminar venue.
Please note that there is no parking available in the college carpark. There are frequent buses from Oxford rail station to Oxford city centre. St Catherine’s College is a short walk from the city centre. For directions, see the college website.
Our event marks the launch of Understanding Voices – a new website providing clear, comprehensive and balanced information about hearing voices – and explores visions for the future.
Developed over two years through extensive consultation and collaboration with voice-hearers, Understanding Voices reflects the current state of our collective knowledge and understanding of voice-hearing. But what do we not yet understand about voices? Which directions are we and should we be headed in? Today voice-hearers, their families and allies join together with academics, activists and mental health professionals in order to explore future directions in voice-hearing research, advocacy, policy and clinical practice.
Conversations will be prompted by short presentations from people with diverse experiences and perspectives, both personal and professional. You can download the full programme for the afternoon here.
We warmly invite you to join us #BeyondTheRoom using the hashtag #UnderstandingVoices. We’ll be live tweeting from the event and posting regular updates throughout the afternoon.
About Understanding Voices
Understanding Voices (UV) is a new web resource that will make it easier to find information about different ways of understanding voices and supporting those who are struggling with the voices that they hear.
Our website covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from what it is like to hear voices and what’s happening in the brain, through to the pros and cons of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and peer support. It also explores practical techniques for managing distressing voices, information for families and friends, and sheds light on the links between voice-hearing and inner speech, trauma, creativity and spiritual or religious experience.
Many thanks to the voice-hearers, family members and health professionals who helped make the website what it is.
11 September 2019 | 1-5.45PM | The Assembly Rooms | Newcastle upon Tyne
Hearing the Voice (Durham University) warmly invites you to join a public event which asks ‘Hearing Voices: What do we need to know?’.
The half-day symposium will take place at The Assembly Rooms in Newcastle upon Tyne on the 11 September (1-5.45PM) and will celebrate the launch of Understanding Voices – a new website providing clear, comprehensive and balanced information about hearing voices – and explore visions for the future.
Developed over two years through extensive consultation and collaboration with voice-hearers, Understanding Voices reflects the current state of our collective knowledge and understanding of voice-hearing. But what do we not yet understand about voices? Which directions are we and should we be headed in? This event brings voice-hearers, their families and allies together with academics, activists and mental health professionals in order to explore future directions in voice-hearing research, advocacy, policy and clinical practice.
Conversations will be prompted by short presentations from people with diverse experiences and perspectives, both personal and professional:
Steph Allan (University of Glasgow) – Doctoral researcher with an interest in digital and participatory research in psychosis.
Dawn Edge (University of Manchester) – Researcher working on the interrelationship between mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Akiko Hart (Mind in Camden) – London Hearing Voices Project Manager, Committee Member of the English Hearing Voices Network and Chair of the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis, UK.
James Kirkbride (University College London) – Psychiatric epidemiologist interested in social and environmental determinants of psychosis.
Colin King – Mental health survivor, practitioner, commissioner, trainer, teacher and researcher.
Sarah Parry (Manchester Metropolitan University) – Psychologist working with young people who hear voices.
Emmanuelle Peters (Kings College London) – Clinical academic psychologist working on voice-hearing in people with no need for psychiatric care.
Jason Poole (University of East London) – Set up and evaluated the UK’s first Hearing Voices Group at the Heathrow Immigrant Removal Centre
Neil Thomas (Swinburne University of Technology) – Researcher specializing in hearing voices, psychosis and the therapeutic use of online, mobile and digital technology.
Rachel Waddingham – Voice-hearer, mental health trainer, researcher, and Chair of the Hearing Voices Network England.
There is no cost to attend, and a number of travel bursaries are available for peer support groups for people who hear voices and individuals with personal experience of voice-hearing. Please contact Rebecca Doggwiler for more information.
The symposium will be followed by a wine reception.
We hope you can join us for what promises to be a rich and stimulating event.
If you would like to attend, we kindly ask that you register through Eventbrite.
About Understanding Voices
Understanding Voices (UV) is a new website that will make it easier for people to find information about different approaches to voice-hearing and ways of supporting those who are struggling with the voices they hear. It is being produced by Hearing the Voice (Durham University) in close collaboration with voice-hearers, their families and allies, and mental health professionals.
The website will cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from what it is like to hear voices and what’s happening in the brain, through to the pros and cons of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and peer support. It will present practical techniques for managing distressing voices, information for families and friends, and also shed light on the links between voice-hearing and inner speech, trauma, creativity and spiritual or religious experience.
The website will launch on 11 September 2019. You can find out more about the project here.