Not Tea with the Queen, but Wine
By Olga Runciman, Chair of the Danish Hearing Voices Network
Original article published on Mad in America
On the 19th of June I attended a garden party; however it was not just any kind of party, it was a once in a life time party. I was invited by the Queen of Denmark and the Prince, to attend their garden party[i] at Fredensborg Castle[ii]. I was nominated and I quote,”… for her great work in addressing discrimination towards people who hear voices, helping them to achieve a better life, including re-entering the work force.” by LAP the Danish National Organization for (Ex-) Users of Psychiatry. Four others from LAP were also invited.
For countries which do not have royal families, many are sceptical as to royal family’s roles and functions, but rest assured, this blog will not be about delving into the pros and cons of royalty. Suffice to say being married to a wonderful American, who is a sceptic, I explained that this could be compared to being invited to the White house.
I feel very honoured and proud to have received this acknowledgement, not only for my own work, but also on behalf of the Hearing Voices Networks. It is the first time ever, that such a stigmatized and discriminated ‘group’ which I represented that day, i.e. the ‘schizophrenics’, was not just invited but given such prominence and standing. Amongst the 1000 or so people invited, I was one of the few who was given the added honour of being asked to join the Queen for a glass of Prince Henrik’s wine[iii], not tea, and to talk about hearing voices and other such phenomenon from our perspective, something the Queen knew very little about.
The Danish HVN has existed since 2005. In that time it has changed the face of Danish psychiatry, not that that does not mean we do not still have a long way to go, we do. The HVN has turned the concept of chronicity on its head and schizophrenia is no longer officially a chronic illness. In fact at the end of last year the Danish Psychiatric Foundation published their revised book on Schizophrenia and Other Psychosis and in it they say hearing voices is not necessarily a symptom of schizophrenia and that it is now also possible to recover.
Our HVN has inspired self-help groups up and down the country with social psychiatry in particular, being inspired by the ethos of the HVN and actively supporting or setting up voice hearing groups in and around institutions. We have the last couple of years, been one of the countries who has had the largest number of people traveling to and attending the yearly Intervoice meeting and World Congress, surpassing on two occasions the host countries, when it came to which country had most people there! This year the Intervoice meeting and World Congress will be held in Cardiff, Wales, and I would urge those of you who can, to come. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience and learn about voice hearing from a non-psychiatric perspective.
Our constant and insistent demands for human rights, combined with our critique of the medical model and the biological/genetic foundation upon which it is built, has begun to give resonance in the general public and also within psychiatry itself. Several of us on the board are also working actively with the present government, in an attempt to promote changes in psychiatry through political influence.
We work closely with LAP and have recently been a part of the very successful, LAP organised, Hearing at the Houses of Parliament on ‘Deaths in Psychiatry’[iv]. The Hearing ended with a panel of politicians discussing what could/should be done. In connection with the Hearing, a demonstration had been organised on the same topic, starting with a march which began in front of the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, and ended at Copenhagen city hall[v].
We also have a very close relationship with the British HVN, which played a key role in helping us start our network and the bonds created then, have continued to grow. Finally we are proud to be a part of the global hearing voices movement, said to be the quickest growing user movement in the world today!
This year on the 19th of June over a glass of wine (not tea), voice hearing became a topic of conversation and acknowledged by the Queen of Denmark. Who would ever have imagined that, that would be!
[i] Link in Danish (official pictures from the garden Party) www.kongehuset.dk/Menu/materiale/haveselskab-2012/billeder-fra-regentparrets-haveselskab