I am very excited to announce that Voice Collective, a UK-based project supporting children and young people who see, hear or sense things others don’t, has launched the first-ever online forum dedicated to supporting young people who hear voices.
The online forum is a safe, confidential space for young people aged 25 and under who hear voices, see visions or have other unusual sensory experiences or beliefs, as well as their parents, carers and supporters.
In many ways, the forum is like a Hearing Voices peer support group online — but available to young people and their parents or carers around the world, regardless of geographical location. This feels really important, as so many people aren’t able to access support or groups because of where they are based; in some rural locations for example, or simply because there isn’t a group nearby. Another way it’s similar to a group is that it’s facilitated by trained members of the Hearing Voices team at Mind in Camden in London, UK, where Voice Collective is based. To help this forum stay safe for users, only registered forum members can see what’s posted.
There are two Peer Support Spaces, one for people under 18 and one for 18-25. This is an online space for young people to post about their voices, visions, things that are bothering them, or things that are going well. Modeled on a Hearing Voices peer support group, it’s not a space for professional support, but more a space to listen, to feel heard and — hopefully — to feel understood. There is a Social Space, where people can choose to hang out on days when they don’t feel up to looking in the support section, but still want to connect. There is a Resources, Tips and Links section, where members can share coping tips or links to useful websites or videos. Finally, there is a Supporter Space for parents, carers and other people who support young people who hear, see or sense things others don’t. This section is only available to supporters, and is also the only section they can access, in order to help keep discussions private while enabling a young person and their parent to access the forum.
The online forum is part of our wider work at Voice Collective with children and young people who hear, see and sense things that others don’t. Our UK project, now funded by Children and Need and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, has been running since 2009. We train staff and youth workers who work with children and young people to understand different ways of understanding and working with voice hearing, and to set up peer support groups. We also provide a limited amount of direct support for children and young people who hear voices — as well as their parents, carers and supporters — through face to face and phone support, and a non-crisis email support line. Owing to capacity and funding, the direct support can only be offered in a limited way to UK and London-based young people and their supporters, so this forum really helps us reach out to more young people across the world.
A big thank you to Hearing the Voice, an interdisciplinary research project on voice hearing at Durham University, who are funding the forum, and Hearing Voices Network England, who created the site with us and are providing co-facilitation support and advice, based on their experience of facilitating an online forum on their website.