Professor Marius Romme, MD, PhD is President of Intervoice
In 1987, I had no idea the impact that the discovery that accepting and making sense of voices was a helpful alternative was going to have. Yet, after twenty three years of work we have built a unique and formidable movement of voice hearers and allies that has brought about a big change in the way hearing voices are regarded and has found new ways of helping people overwhelmed by their voices.
There are many fears and misunderstandings in society and within psychiatry about hearing voices. They are generally regarded as a symptom of an illness, something that is negative, to be got rid of and consequently the content and meaning of the voice experience is rarely discussed.
The research of Dr. Sandra Escher and myself with over 300 voice hearers has shown that over 70% of people who hear voices can point to a traumatic life event that triggered their voices; that talking about voices and what they mean is a very effective way to reduce anxiety and isolation; and that even when the voices are overwhelming and seemingly destructive they often have an important message for the hearer.
Typically, in Western medical thinking hearing voices has always been associated with mental illness and frequently seen as a symptom of schizophrenia. Yet, we discovered many people who hear voices do not have a mental illness and never seek help. For this reason we are prepared to accept a range of explanations offered by people who hear voices, including spiritual ones, and believe it is essential to the process of recovery from overwhelming voices to understand the meaning of the voices to the voice hearer.
Whilst we are finding more holistic solutions to voices that cause mental distress then those offered by psychiatry. It is very important to stress that in our view voices are an aspect of human differentness, rather than a mental health problem. As with homosexuality, which was also regarded by psychiatry in recent times as an illness, the main issue we have to confront is the denial of the human rights to people who hear voices and our main task is to change the way society perceives the experience. Only if can we do this, do we believe psychiatry will change its mind about voices. That is why this website is so important.
With the support of the worldwide hearing voices network, voice hearers, some of whom have spent long periods of time in psychiatric care, have reclaimed their lives and are now able to say they hear voices and accept them as part of themselves. We believe this is a good time to make our work better known across the world.