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2014 Press Releases

UCC hosts lecture on hearing voices

11 Apr 2014
Photo Tomás Tyner, UCC

UCC will host a public talk on young people who hear voices on April 14 as part of a plan to develop local mental health services in this area.

Voice Collective,  a London-based project supporting children and young people who hear voices, is coming to Cork to work  with local mental health services to develop peer support groups for children and young people who hear voices.

To support this initiative, Rachel Waddingham, project manager, will be giving a free public talk on Monday 14th April, from 6.30 – 8.00  in Boole 4 lecture theatre in UCC on ‘hearing voices in childhood and adolescence’. This free talk, hosted by The School of Nursing and Midwifery and The Irish Institute of Mental Health Nursing, is open to anyone with an interest in understanding the experience of young people who hear voices.

Whilst often thought to be a sign of a severe mental illness, research has shown that it is a relatively common experience in childhood and adolescence (affecting 20% of 11-13 year olds and 7% older teens). For many, these experiences are transient or pleasant, perhaps giving support or encouragement during times of stress. For others the voices can become overwhelming, leaving them feeling isolated and frightened. It can be such a stigmatising experience that many hide it. In this talk, Rachel will share her experience of working with young people who hear voices and look at how we can support young people to reclaim their lives. She says ‘voice-hearing in childhood is still a taboo in our society. If we, as adults, are unable to talk about it, how can we expect young people to open up when they need help?’

The Voice Collective project, at Mind in Camden, was launched in 2009 to develop peer support groups and none-medical support for young people who are struggling to cope with the voices they hear. It works in partnership with youth groups, schools, mental health services and community groups to provide peer support groups, creative workshops and individual support for young people and their families. Rachel launched the project, in part, in response to her own experiences as a young person.

She says “I started to see visions when I was at primary school, and still hear voices to this day. I am successful, I work full time and live a life that I love – but it wasn’t always this way. In my early 20s I spent a lot of time in hospital, really struggling to cope. Rather than talk about my issues, I kept them secret for far too long. I am constantly amazed at how courageous and open the young people we meet at Voice Collective are – but I know there are many more young people who are still struggling to find a way of opening up. I hope this event is the start of an initiative that makes a real difference to the young people of Cork”.

For more information on Voice Collective, see:

Dr Gijbels in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC   has a professional interest in the area of voice hearing, which has to date involved organising three voice hearing group facilitation workshops over the last two  years for people (professionals and voice hearers) interested in facilitating hearing voices support groups. These workshops have been facilitated by Jacqui Dillon, a leading voice in the voice hearing movement.   

There are now a number of such groups around the country, including Cork. These workshops have been funded by the Nursing and Midwifery professional Development Unit and have been organised by the Irish Institute of Mental Health Nursing, of which Dr Gijbels is a board member.  Next week there is a national meeting in UCC where am attempt will be made to start the process of setting up a Hearing Voices Network Ireland. The work Rachel Waddingham is doing is all part of establishing a sound base for a hearing voices network. 


Supporting Information

Young people’s experiences

“I have co-existed with my voices for as many years as my memory can recall. It started off mainly as a mixture of a positive, but occasionally bothersome, experience. I was comfortable with our coexistence for many years, until when I was 14, when the voices really turned up the heat and the volume. I gradually descended into a set of beliefs surrounding myself, as my voices became increasingly angry and violent. One of them vanished, and in the vacuum the other began speaking twice as much.

Luckily I was able to contact Voice Collective relatively early into my distressing experiences, and they really helped. I hopped in and out of hospital like it was going out of fashion, and received a diagnosis which I didn’t really agree with. I’ve began to develop a working relationship with my voice, and tried to understand her and what drives her.

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 Voice Collective’s help, I’m discovering more about my self and my experiences than being labelled or medicated ever could”.

Eoin, aged 19

“The Voice Collective Project has been amazing. They really understand me and how I feel, because they have heard voices too. I know they believe me too, 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, which has helped me to realise I am not alone”.

Ashley, aged 13

Voice Collective website:

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF