Help plea for young who hear voices in their head, new group urges
IRISH teens who hear voices and see visions need to be protected by society from the stigma that their experiences are 'freakish'.
The plea came as a new Irish support group, the Irish Voices Collective (IVC), is being set up to support children and teens who experience such encounters.
The new group is to focus on the experiences of children – and not on whether such voices or visions are caused by the deep psyche, guardian angels or demons.
IVC was set up in the wake of studies which indicated that one in four children aged under 13 years in Ireland have heard such voices, usually as a once-off event. That dwindles to just 8pc by the time children are aged 17 years – but voices and visions can reoccur at times of trauma or stress in the youngster's life.
Rachel Waddingham, who heard voices as a teen, warned that it was vital such youngsters receive support and understanding.
Her plea came at a University College Cork (UCC) conference, organised by Cork School of Nursing director Dr Harry Gijbels, which aims to see the new IVC group receive support from other similar groups worldwide.
"The tragedy is that the primary concern amongst children is that if they speak out about what has happened to them they will be somehow branded a freak," Ms Waddingham said. "In some cases, they are worried that speaking up about the voices they hear will result in them being rushed to a doctor or a hospital."
Ms Waddingham – who is based in the UK – said people had been hearing voices for thousands of years with a variety of explanations being offered.
"Times of stress and trauma seem to be particularly involved but there can be multiple reasons," she said. In some cases, a voice or vision can be indicative that the person needs mental health supports. A number of Irish teens outlined their voice and vision experiences on an anonymous basis.
Eoin (19) said his problem was that, in his late teens, one of the voices in his head increased in volume and attempted to drown out everything else.
"I don't think 'recovery' and 'not hearing voices' are the same thing – if anything, I get more upset when I have a period of 'silence'. My voices have been a very formative experience in my life and with (Irish) Voice Collective's help I'm discovering more about myself and my experiences than being labelled or medicated ever could."
Ashley (13) said the crucial thing for her was to have someone believe she actually could hear voices.
"They really understand me and how I feel because they have heard voices too. I know they believe me, which is important.They help me to challenge the voices and feel safer by giving me coping strategies. I go to a weekly group where I have met other young people who are experiencing similar things, which has helped me to realise that I am not alone," she said.