Tuesday 16 July 2013

Jacqui Dillon heads to Mid Wales

I’ve just finished reading a brilliant book called – "Agnes’s Jacket" by Gail A. Hornstein, Professor of Psychology at Holyoke College in the USA. It’s about Gail’s investigation into people’s experiences of mental distress, and at times it reads more like a detective story than an academic piece as with as open a mind as it is possible to have she enters and explores “a vibrant underground network of ‘psychiatric survivor groups’ all over the world.”

Jacqui Dillon features prominently in the book as the Chair of England’s Hearing Voices Network – Gail’s enquiries take her to many of the HVN meetings and events. At one Jacqui says: “I have come to view hearing voices as an adaptive and creative strategy, an example of the persistence of the human spirit to survive in the most extreme circumstances..... My hearing voices was a perfectly natural response to the sadistic torment I experienced. Psychiatrists should stop asking, what’s wrong with you? And start asking, what’s happened to you? That’s what we do in HVN support groups.”

I’d come across Jacqui online before, as she features regularly on a favourite website of mine - Mad in America – but search online for any information about hearing voices and her name soon crops up. Jacqui is “a respected campaigner, writer, international speaker and trainer specialising in hearing voices, ‘psychosis’, dissociation, trauma, abuse, healing and recovery.” And her own website is not just an excellent resource for anyone wishing to find out more about the hearing voices movement, but tells a powerful personal story – “of surviving childhood abuse and subsequently using psychiatric services (to) inform her work.... she is an outspoken advocate and campaigner for humane, trauma-informed approaches to madness and distress.” 

So I was delighted to discover that Laura had booked Jacqui as the keynote speaker at the Mid Wales national Stronger in Partnership event (“Shaping Services”) on 19 September in Llandrindod Wells. This event is one of three organised by our Powys Mental Health team here at PAVO and funded by Welsh Government and Public Health Wales. Individuals, carers and staff are invited to share their experiences and views about services, and find out more about what is proposed nationally. (Last year’s event was in May 2012 in Newtown - Eleanor Longden spoke inspirationally - you can read more about the day here).

Laura tells me that this year’s themes are:

  • All age participation – to fit with the national and local mental health strategies.
  • Children and young people feeling more confident to support each other through mental distress (for example, self harm, hearing voices, sadness, and anxiety).
  • Welfare Reform – how are the changes affecting people in contact with mental health services and those close to them? What can we do to make a positive difference to improve their experiences?
  • National and Local Mental Health Partnership Board Strategy, Implementation and Participation. 
You can find out more about the conference here. So many interesting issues and topics to discuss, AND Jacqui’s keynote talk….

And so, back to Jacqui… The Hearing Voices Network has joined the debate which has been active on here lately -
about the medicalisation of mental distress. Jacqui writes, as Chair, that “psychiatric diagnoses are both scientifically unsound and can have damaging consequences..... People who use services are the true experts on how those services could be developed and delivered; they are the ones that know exactly what they need, what works well and what improvements need to be made. This is not just an academic or professional issue – it’s one that affects our lives.”

So, for anyone interested in pursuing this debate – make sure you book your place at the event as soon as you can - BOOKING NOW OPEN HERE – a quick reminder of the date as I can hear the rustle of paper diaries and clicking onto online calendars….., that’s Thursday 19 September, The Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells, and we really hope to see you there!

Any queries, just get back to us – as always – by commenting below or emailing:
pamhinfo@pavo.org.uk, or ringing 01597 822191 or 01686 628300.

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