Mental Health Employees Participate in “Hearing Voices” Training

This past Wednesday, August 30, employees in Bell’s Mental Health Services programs and Next Door program arrived at our main office building to undergo a training called “Hearing Voices.” Most of them didn’t know what to expect going in, but even if they did, nothing could have prepared them for what the next two hours would entail.

The Hearing Voices Simulation Training, designed by Pat Deegan, PhD., is a workshop designed to simulate the experience of hearing distressing voices. During the exercise, participants are asked to complete a series of mock tasks ranging in complexity from counting passing cars to folding origami birds while wearing a headset that plays distressing voices in each ear. The training aims to educate participants on the lived experience of people living with psychiatric disabilities, increase empathy for those individuals, and provide effective ways of helping people who hear distressing voices.

Staff who took the training on Wednesday had some very interesting things to say coming out of it. “It can be pretty stressful just trying to navigate through the day and focus with the different sounds and voices that you hear, and a lot of the time, they’re putting you down,” one employee said of her experience in the training.

“I felt frustrated at points during it,” said Oasis House Program Coordinator Rebecca Franz. “I kind of wanted to just shut down and not do any of it.” Another mental health employee corroborated this, claiming that she “saw her frustration.”

Despite the widespread frustrations, the participants came away from the training with an overall positive experience. “It’s really stressful to go through an experience that you have no idea of what you’re putting yourself into, but I think the experience really showed me empathy and how important it is not only to receive it, but to be able to give it to other people and understand what they’re going through and how exactly you can help them,” one employee said.

“I agree with her,” another immediately chimed in.

Overall, the training was successful in increasing understanding and empathy for those who hear distressing voices. The employees who participated in the training will take what they learned back to their jobs to more effectively serve their clients and help those in need.