On 9th July, Mind in Camden’s Prison Project held a one day conference in London: ‘Voices Unlocked’. Having set up, and worked on, this project since its launch in 2010 – I was both excited and nervous to share our work with a wider audience. The day was a huge success, bringing together people from across the country who care about providing better support for people in prison who hear voices or see visions. We welcomed prison officers, mental health staff, charities, user/survivor groups, governmental bodies and reform campaigners – resulting in a melting pot of ideas and experiences that helped add to the depth of the day.
In the morning, we heard from Jacqui Dillon (Chair of HVN), who talked about supporting people in secure units who hear violent voices. Kimmett Edgar from the Prison Reform Trust challenged the myth that people in prison are only out for themselves and won’t engage in peer support. Dolly Sen challenged the myth that hope is unrealistic – some people just won’t recover and there’s nothing we can do about it. Sharron and Paul (from HMP Holloway and HMP Pentonville, respectively) shared their experiences as prison officers who now work with the Hearing Voices Group in their prison.
After showing our Voices: Unlocked short film about Hearing Voices Groups in Prison, I shared my experiences as project manager. I explored why Hearing Voices Groups are essential to support people in prison who are struggling with difficult voices or visions, and our experience of how these groups can really begin to change the culture of prisons in a positive manner.
Afternoon workshops included: making sense of violent voices; rethinking paranoia and working with trauma and self-harm. there was plenty of opportunity to learn from those with lived experience of hearing voices. the conference attracted a wide variety of attendees and provided a platform for extending the project across the country.
For more information on Mind in Camden’s London Hearing Voices Prisons Project, see: www.mindincamden.org.uk