If you’re concerned or worried about what might happen to you if you seek help in a mental health crisis and tell professionals that you’re hearing voices, we’ve put together some answers to frequently asked questions that you might useful.
If you’d like practical tips and advice on how to cope with overwhelming feelings of distress while you’re waiting for support, go here.
1. If I tell people I hear voices, will they lock me up?
Sometimes people worry that if they open up about hearing voices they will be hospitalised against their will. Media images of Victorian asylums don’t help ease these concerns – even though they are years out of date. Most people who hear voices, even those who are distressed by them, live their lives in the community. If they are struggling to cope, they are often referred to crisis resolution home treatment teams or other forms of mental health support.
If the people you speak to are really worried about your safety or think that an inpatient unit is the best place to make sense of what’s going on, then they might suggest coming in to hospital. However, it should be your choice. They will only consider admitting you against your will if they are extremely worried about your safety, or the safety of someone else and they are convinced that there are no other options that will help – for example, supportive relatives or crisis houses. If you’re worried about your rights, you can read more on RETHINK’s Mental Health Act.
If the people you speak to are working in line with NHS policies, then they should prioritise your right to choose wherever possible. If you’re worried that you’re not being heard it could be useful to speak with an advocate who knows your rights and is trained to help you get your voice heard.
2. Will they believe me?
Another common concern is whether people will believe or understand how serious someone’s worries are. It’s an understandable fear. After all, other people can’t hear the voices and they can’t feel what it’s like. If you’ve tried telling someone before and been dismissed or made fun of, then you might be even more likely to worry about being taken seriously.
Whilst it’s impossible to guarantee that everyone who asks for help with their voices will be listened to, awareness around voice-hearing as a diverse experience is increasing. This means that professionals should be more aware that there are lots of different experiences that come under the ‘voice-hearing’ umbrella and that it is important to listen to the person rather than judge them.
Whilst many people get an empathic response, if you find that the person you speak to is dismissive or unhelpful, it’s important to speak to someone about it. You can talk with a friend, a relative, your GP or a listening service. There are lots of different avenues to get help. Don’t give up.
3. What's the point in telling people? No-one can stop the voices
Sometimes the voices, and the things they