More than 20pc of children hear voices
More than one in five children regularly hears voices in their heads.
The revelation came as a major conference aims to examine a phenomenon that has variously been attributed to imaginary friends, the subconscious self, psychiatric problems, guardian angels and even demons.
The conference in UCC is being organised by Cork School of Nursing director Dr Harry Gijbels and will be addressed by Rachel Waddingham who works with the Voice Collective, a London-based project supporting children and young people who hear voices.
An Irish group is now being set up. "We're more interested in hearing about the actual phenomenon than the causes," Ms Waddingham told the Irish Independent.
"But the statistics are quite clear – between 22-23pc of 11- to 13-year-olds hear voices, usually as a once-off occurrence," she said. "That drops to 7pc or 8pc by the time children approach their late teens."
A recent Health Research Board (HRB) study of 2,500 children aged between 11 and 16 years shocked researchers with the substantial number who admitted to hearing voices. Prof Mary Cannon of the HRB said the phenomenon was much more common than previously thought.
Ms Waddingham, who heard voices and saw visions as a young teen, said "the sad thing is that children are worried that if they speak about what happened they will be branded a freak. But people have been hearing voices since biblical times."
The event takes place in UCC's Boule Centre from 6pm-8pm on April 14 and is free and open to the public.