These tips were posted by Jacqui Dillon on Mad In America. They were originally generated when Oprah Winifrey decided to do a show on “childhood schizophrenia.” The tips were compiled by an international organization of people and children who hear voices. One of their representatives hand delivered a letter to Oprah along with these tips asking her to recommend other approaches besides a disease model for here show on children who hear voices. Oprah made no acknowledgement of them on her show. She just took that opportunity to say that all children who hear voices should be given psychiatric medications and labels.
Jacqui Dillon’s tips are like the LGBT community’s response to bullying of gay kids, the It Gets Better Campaign. Adults who were gay posted stories about being bullied and said that it wasn’t as hard from an adult perspective. In response, David Oaks of Mind Freedom led a mental health civil rights campaign called, “I Got Better.” There’s tons of videos now posted about complete mental health recovery. The ten tips below were all compiled by adults who hear voices or they, too, were children who hear voices.
Jacqui Dillon says,
It is important to appreciate that the desire to make voices disappear, although usually the goal of the mental health care services, is not necessarily in the best interests of children. Some children do not want to lose their voices. If children can find within themselves the resources to cope with their voices, they can begin to lead happier and more balanced lives.
The most important element in this process is support from the family. Unfortunately, we have found that mental health services often fail to have a positive effect on children’s voices, because they foster fear rather than coping. However, we have found that referral to a psychotherapist who is prepared to discuss the meaning of voices is often helpful.
It is important that parents do not assume that hearing voices is a terrible disaster but instead regard it as a signal that something is troubling their child. If parents assume that voices are a symptom of an illness, and are afraid of them, the child will naturally pick up on this feeling. This can lead to a self-defeating cycle in which the child becomes fearful and obsessed by the voices.
10-point guide for parents of children who hear voices:
1. Try not to over react. Although it is understandable that you will be worried, work hard not to communicate your anxiety to your child.
2. Accept the reality of the voice experience for your child; ask about the voices, how long the child has been hearing them, who or what they are, whether they have names, what they say, etc.
3. Let your child know that there are many other children who hear voices and that usually they go away after a while.
4. Even if the voices do not disappear your child may learn to live in harmony with them.
5. It is important to break down your child’s sense of isolation and difference from other children. Your child is special – unusual perhaps, but really not abnormal.
6. Find out if your child has any difficulties or problems that he or she finds very hard to cope with, and work on fixing those problems. Think back to when the voices first started. What was happening to your child at the time? Was there anything unusual or stressful occurring?
7. If you think you need outside help, find a therapist who is prepared to accept your child’s experiences and work systematically with him or her to understand and cope better with the voices.
8. Be ready to listen to your child if he or she wants to talk about the voices. Use drawing, painting, acting and other creative ways to help the child to describe what is happening in his or her life.
9. Get on with your lives and try not to let the experience of hearing voices become the centre of your child’s life or your own.
10. Most children who hear voices and live well with them have supportive families who accept the experience as part of who their child is. You can do this too!