“Making trusted human connections during times of feeling socially isolated has been invaluable, in addition to having a common experience that has emerged out of adversity.” -Lynchburg, Virginia
Your monthly donation today will bring peer and family support into homes around the world, helping people to stay sheltered safely during this critical time of physical distancing. Requests are flooding in from families desperate for help.
We can all come together to bring online peer support to individuals and to their families now when they need it most. If you are in need of peer or family support, check out the current list of phone and online supports.
“It was only when I began seeking to understand the voices in the company of other voice hearers at HVN online groups that I really began to understand how to live with them in relationship rather than continuing to struggle as I had previously. Thankful for HVN!” -Vancouver, Washington
Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, mental health systems have been failing people who hear voices, see visions, and/or have other related experiences. Mental health care costs have skyrocketed at the same time that minimal options have been available, and outcomes have worsened. Now, as we are facing an unprecedented level of emergency, financial distress, fear, and uncertainty in the U.S. and beyond, our systems are as ill prepared as ever to respond to the demand.
Social distancing has taken coping strategies away from voice-hearers
The pandemic is defined by isolation and ‘social distancing,’ and for many people who hear voices, isolation is nothing new. However, the forced nature of the current circumstances mixed with the uncertainty of what happens next has changed the intensity and content of people’s experiences. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in distressing voices and visions for many across the globe.
Under normal circumstances, such experiences might lead someone to look for a local group operating under the umbrella of the Hearing Voices Network (HVN) or meet up with someone else who’s navigated something similar. But, unfortunately, distress has increased at the same time that many of people’s usual coping strategies have been taken off the table for lack of alignment with “stay at home” requirements.
New life-saving online options are available, but more are needed
Right now, under stay-at-home orders, voice hearers and their families may be confined individually or together over extended periods of crisis and uncertainty. Yet, new on-line options are popping up that may be life saving for some.
“Attending an online HVN group has been transformative for me. I found a welcoming community where I felt safe to discuss my thoughts and experiences. The group values of freedom, respect, non-judgement and curiosity opened up a whole new world for me. I have learned so much from the group members that has enriched my life.” – Richmond, VA
Much like in person meetings, online Hearing Voices groups operate as a part of the HVN and offer fellowship, solidarity, and an opportunity to make sense of distressing experiences during a time when it is needed more than ever. Similarly, Hearing Voices friends and family groups equip participants with the skills to support themselves and their loved ones, and build understanding all around.
The transition to facilitating online rather than in-person groups involves a particular set of skills, including attention to sensitive privacy and security matters; managing multiple technical aspects; and minimizing disruptions to ensure the best quality experience for all.
Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WMRLC) director of training Caroline Mazel-Carlton and lead trainer Cindy Marty Hadge, both longtime Hearing Voices facilitators and trainers, have the experience to help other Hearing Voices facilitators to make the transition as smooth as possible, for both themselves and participants.
“The Hearing Voices family group has provided an opportunity for my son and I to open a dialogue on his personal experiences. I hope that the work of the HVN groups can continue because, as you know, there is a big need everywhere for all types of community mental health support. Given the need, I have just sent a donation to help your organization with your work. Thank you for your efforts, K”
With the support of Open Excellence, Mazel-Carlton co-founded the first online Hearing Voices group for voice hearers in 2017, and Hadge co-founded the first on-line group for family and friends in 2019.
People and families experiencing distress and crisis need all the support they can get and they need it right now. Open Excellence and our partners are doing all we can to respond to these urgent needs. Over the past weeks, grant-funded work has included:
- A rapid expansion of Hearing Voices Network (HVN) supports online, for voice-hearers as well as friends and families;
- Workshops focused on Hearing Voices online group facilitation skill development;
- Ongoing support and technical assistance for Hearing Voices online facilitators; and
- Working toward longer-term capacity so as to sustain some of the on-line meetings for people who live in areas where no in-person meetings were available even before the pandemic struck.
“I have greatly appreciated being invited to participate in monthly online family group facilitator meetings which includes participants from coast to coast in the USA. This is a welcome breath of fresh air for me. I have desired this kind of support for a long time and I’m so grateful that it is now available. And I am grateful to Open Excellence for supporting the work that Cindy and Caroline do.” -Family support group facilitator, Westhampton, Massachusetts
What your investment will do
During the month of March, there has been great progress in scaffolding the infrastructure to bring HVN groups online. Together, we can expand and sustain that infrastructure. Your investment today will:
- Bring HVN online groups and workshops to as many people as possible in the USA and across the globe;
- Develop and disseminate new training and support materials related to modified coping strategies that work under our these present day circumstances;
- Provide ongoing technical support to Hearing Voices facilitators to ensure online groups run smoothly, are aligned with HVN values, and provide the critical sense of connection that HVN is known for;
- Ensure ongoing networking opportunities for Hearing Voices group facilitators;
- Support family and friends of voice hearers with a foundational online course in HVN principles and approaches, designed especially for them; and
- Scale up existing online Hearing Voices supports for military veterans.
“I find the group to be informative and useful, especially to those parents and caregivers who are in current distress related to their family members.” -Friends & family group participant, Ashland, New Hampshire
Even when physical distancing guidelines are relaxed when the pandemic subsides, the strong HVN online infrastructure we create today will make these groups accessible to a wider circle of people than ever before: disabled people, youth, people in rural areas or those for whom in-person groups are not yet available, and those who feel more comfortable participating virtually than in person.
The Hearing Voices Network USA (HVN-USA) Charter refers to the groups as “communities where people can find acceptance, belonging, purpose, and space to explore and learn about one’s self, their experiences and their connections with others and the world.”
These vital community spaces are needed, now more urgently than ever. Thank you for considering a monthly investment to support this ongoing, lifesaving work.