Do Voice Hearers Have the Right to Refuse Psychiatric Drugs?


In this piece for STAT, Shirley S. Wang discusses the Hearing Voices Network and its non-pathologizing, rights-affirming approach to hearing voices and alternative realities.

“Many recovered voice hearers say that once they engage with the voices, their mental health improves — and the voices become nicer as well.

Since going off her medications, for instance, Waddingham has been able to take on demanding full-time jobs, such as serving as a past project manager at a nonprofit mental health advocacy organization. And she’s gotten married.

Now 39, she lives in Faversham, England, about 50 miles east of London, works as a therapist, and gives speeches about voice hearing and recovery strategies around the country. She’s also writing a book and applying for Ph.D. programs.

She hears more voices than ever — about 13 at the moment, she estimates. And they continue to tell her to hurt herself or others. Waddingham acknowledges that hearing the voices ‘can be difficult.’ She still has days when it’s hard to cope and she needs to sit home alone and pull a blanket around her. Still, she chooses not to use medication —  even though the drugs did reduce the number of voices she heard.”


  1. “Charles Fernyhough, a psychology professor at Durham University in the U.K. who studies the topic, said one theory holds that the phenomenon appears to be similar to the self-talk that everyone does. It seems a certain percentage of people don’t experience their internal monologues as being something that they themselves have produced, leading them to experience the voices as coming from another person.”
    From the article, and I believe this is what my wife’s experience taught me…and once I understood that, I was better able to be in tune with myself…

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  2. You can reverse the question, and it will make as much sense. Do non-voice hearers have the right to refuse psychiatric drugs? Human beings have rights; mental patients, not so much. Are mental patients human beings? I tell you, it’s still an uphill struggle for those elusive civil rights. They exist on paper, and they are denied on paper, one directive cancelling the other.

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  3. My experience has been that rights are only theoretical. The patient / victim DOES have rights – until he or she chooses to exercise them, at which point they are removed. Similarly with ‘nearest relative’ in the uk. Certain (very important) rights are prescribed to the role, but if you choose to exercise them in support of a loved one’s wishes, you are stripped of the title and of course the accompanying rights.

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