Study questions mental health link

Lyn Mahboub
Study questions mental health link
Lyn Mahboub

�The first bit of research done by Professor Marius Romme found there were a range of |people (who heard voices) who lived well in the community and didn�t have any distressing or mental health experiences,� she said.

�But they had a very strong framework of understanding about why they heard the voices � for example they might come from a long line of seers (psychics) in their family, so they can attribute the voices to something and set limits on them so they are less dominant and they are generally more positive.

�The voices may also be a cultural or spiritual experience where a person hears an ancestor or a lost relative following bereavement.�

Ms Mahboub said voices that presented themselves in a startling or negative manner were often the result of a past traumatic experience or adverse life events, including bereavement, bullying, divorce, physical or sexual abuse. For example, a person may have internalised the voice of their bully or abuser and it is expressed through a negative voice.

Other voice-hearers have found voices take the shape of different emotions if they have not learnt how to express how they feel.

Emotions such as guilt, shame and low self-worth can also be represented by voices conveying negative messages to an individual.

Ms Mahboub, who is part of the senior management team at Richmond Wellbeing and liaison to the Hearing Voices Network Australia, said voices often became distressing if an individual could not make sense of them.

�The Hearing Voices Network helps people to explore the meaning of distressing voices instead of saying they are simply and only a symptom of a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia. Historically we were taught not to talk to people about the content of their voices experiences, because it was thought to do so was to buy into their delusions.

�But we now know that it is important to support people to be able to debrief about these experience and develop techniques in how to cope with the voices, otherwise one can feel even more alone.�

An international study led by the University of Queensland revealed one in 20 people have heard voices in their head.

The study was published in the JAMA Psychiatry Journal. It involved more than 30,000 people from 18 different countries.

Author of the study and researcher John McGrath said the findings demonstrated the need to rethink the relationship between hearing voices and mental health.