Hearing Voices is something that has been viewed with a stigma for a considerable length of time. 1 in 10 people hear voices that others can’t, and a BBC Documentary has clearly showed the impact these voices can have on an individual. The documentary followed three different people who hear voices in their head – using their personal experiences of voices to let the viewer understand their world. The documentary was certainly thought-provoking. We now take a look at the three cases put forward.
Kyle is a 26-year old man who was once a happy individual – before undergoing a downward spiral. This spiral was set in motion by a chain of events such as losing his job, and subsequently being evicted from his house. A voice started to appear for Kyle, before he got to the point where he suffered from a severe psychotic episode. This psychotic episode was triggered by the voice suggesting to Kyle that he had killed someone. Kyle slashed his own head, leading to him being admitted to a mental institution. Kyle poignantly admitted on the show that when he realised something was wrong, that it was the ‘worst day of his life’, yet also in many ways ‘the best day’. Kyle was taking the antipsychotic Olanzapine, before switching to the antidepressant Mirtazapine – which he suggested worked considerably better. By the end of the program, he appeared to be on his way to recovery – after courageously battling his difficulties.
Emmalina meanwhile heard multiple voices. The most prominent voice came from someone called ‘Katie’. Emmalina described how she first heard voices at the tender age of 8 – when she found a certain voice was better company than other people. Yet by the time we see Emmalina in the documentary, we see that she is struggling to live with the voice. The voice was very critical of Emmalina – calling her extremely unkind things, and generally using invective language. The voice led Emmalina to a difficult self-harming spree. The voice would try and stop Emmalina going outside – suggesting to her it wasn’t safe. There were other voices too – one that Emmalina likened to the devil, the viewer could see she was petrified of this voice. The devil voice clearly had a hold of her. Yet another voice was more complimentary – but was unsurprisingly being drowned out by the more critical voices. Thankfully by the end, Emmalina was gradually reducing the hold the voices had on her.
The last person we met was Chaz. It isn’t entirely clear what caused the voice to appear to Chaz – who first encountered said voice when she mistook the TV being left on for a voice. Chaz would name this voice ‘Victor’. Victor was heavily critical of Chaz – urging her to kill herself. Chaz at one point did appear to attempt suicide by jumping off a bridge. Chaz survived the fall, but Victor tried to get her to return to the bridge and finish what she started. Yet Chaz found strength in poetry, and was fortunate to have a very supportive friend with her. Yet Chaz admitted she wished that she had never met her friends – so that she didn’t end up hurting them. If the stigma around mental health disappeared, then so would the common belief that a sufferer is a ‘burden’ on their loved ones. By the end Chaz was using poetry and performances in general to try and wrestle back control from Victor.
This was a powerful documentary. Perhaps the most scary thing is that anyone can fall into the cycle that these people did. Emmalina had been sexually abused and bullied as a child, while Kyle suffered several setbacks in a short amount of time. Yet we should also see the importance of having someone to support them when needed. Kyle talked about how his Mum was ‘his rock’, while Chaz spoke of her friends. Yet Emmalina, who in my personal opinion seemed to have her life affected the most by the voices, didn’t appear to have many immediate friends. It is surely no coincidence that Emmalina appeared to be struggling. Yet a 48-minute documentary isn’t fully representative of their day-to-day lives, but it does at least underline the need to be kind to anyone going through a difficult time. Fortunately, all three showed signs of improvement. One hopes going forward that these people are able to recover. So many people hear voices, and understanding of what they are going through is important.