An extremely effective developer of services

I have known Jacqui Dillon for several years now — we first met in the early 2000s when she attended the London-based Critical Mental Health Forum, in which I was also involved.  Jacqui has been an extremely effective developer of services in the third sector.  She developed the London Hearing Voices Project and has also chaired the national Hearing Voices Network for several years.

She is a thoughtful and innovative worker who builds good collaborative relationships both with those who use mental health services and with mental health professionals.  She has also been very effective in securing funding for those organisations with which she works.

I work on a clinical psychology training programme and Jacqui has taught sessions on a range of topics on our programme for several years now.  Trainees have said that she is a very engaging and inspiring speaker who also has lots of practical advice about how to bring change in mental health services.

When I’ve seen Jacqui speak I also have been moved and inspired.  Given her earlier career as a journalist it is no surprise that she has been doing more writing, recently co-editing Living with Voices.  She has a national and international reputation and is approached by a range of media organisations for comments in relation to voice hearing and mental health more generally.

Dr Dave Harper, Reader in Clinical Psychology, University of East London. Academic Tutor on the Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology programme.

A highly skilled, empathic teacher

I have employed Jacqui Dillon on a number of occasions, both as a trainer of mental health-care workers, and as a workshop facilitator with professional and service-user participation.

Jacqui is a highly skilled, empathic teacher who through her work and experience is an inspiration and motivator to all, promoting innovation and much-needed change in the way we approach psychiatry today.

Trevor Eyles
Developmental Consultant, Social Psychiatric Services
Aarhus Kommune, Denmark

Challenging and inspiring

We have used Jacqui on our undergraduate and master’s Social Work courses for the last few years as well as on our AMHP training courses. Jacqui presents an articulate and powerful view of mental illness which is both challenging and inspiring to our students and staff. Feedback from students is overwhelmingly positive, many stating it is the highlight of their course, and that Jacqui’s message is one that will stay with them for life. I personally feel that anyone with any contact with mental health issues should attend Jacqui’s training, and that if more people accepted her views, the lives of people diagnosed with mental illness could be vastly improved.

Robert Goemans, Professional Social Work Lead, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust & Lecturer, University of Lincoln.

The Personal is Political

Telling Stories Book CoverTelling Stories? explores the contemporary state of affairs in the understanding and treatment of psychosis. An inclusive approach to mental distress requires that in order to truly understand psychosis we must begin by listening to those who know this from the inside out; the voices and narrative of those who have been condemned as “unanalysable” and mad.

Far from being fantastical, the complex stories that are being articulated communicate painful truths and the myriad ways in which the human psyche survives overwhelming trauma. This book is the culmination of an integrated and creative alliance between those on the cutting edge, experientially, in research, diagnosis, and treatment; this multidisciplinary dialogue proposes a new relational and attachment orientated paradigm for the 21st century. In contrast to the containment model that is currently favoured, this advocates listening and talking therapies, and the healing power of a loving relationship, offering those with psychosis the possibility of more nourishing engagement with the world.

Recovery From ‘Psychosis’

In making sense of what has been deemed as ‘psychosis’ it is essential that we see so called symptoms as profoundly meaningful attempts to survive overwhelming and distressing life experiences.  There is inherent meaning in madness which is inextricably bound up in unresolved, traumatic experiences. These meanings may be communicated in a number of highly symbolic, metaphorical and literal ways and need to be untangled, teased out and examined within the context of the person’s life history. Each voice is an echo of the person’s experience so an attitude of curiosity, understanding and compassion towards all voices is the best stance as it will encourage and support internal communication and ultimately, self acceptance.

This work demands seeing the world and human experience in new ways including an understanding that reality is shaped by experience. This, combined with a willingness to view life through the lens of the person’s subjective experience enables the co-creation of a shared meaning to emerge, deepening mutual understanding and leading to increasing acceptance of self and other.  To support and nurture healing from ‘psychosis’, faith in the possibility of recovery is vital.

The Tale of An Ordinary Little Girl

Psychosis Journal CoverThe Tale of an Ordinary Little Girl won the 2010 Award for Best Paper in the Second Volume of Psychosis (Category B: Experienced-based articles).

Hearing voices, self-harm, eating “disorders” and dissociation, when viewed objectively, are frequently classified as symptoms of serious mental illnesses and disordered personalities that require treatment, eradication and cure.

This convenient societal solution to the complex problem of endemic childhood abuse requires that victims of abuse endure further insult to injury and become the problem to be dealt with.

By tracing the roots of so-called “symptoms” back to their origins in traumatic childhood events and having the courage to bear witness to painful truths, a more accurate, humane and respectful picture emerges which reframes “symptoms” as essential survival techniques.

The mark of a responsible society and responsive services is the willingness to share collective responsibility for these experiences, to honour them, support them and learn from them at all levels.

Living With Voices: An Anthology of 50 Voice Hearers Stories of Recovery

Living With Voices Book CoverA new analysis of the hearing voices experience outside the illness model resulted in accepting and making sense of voices. This study of 50 stories forms the evidence for this successful new approach to working with voice hearers.

At the heart of this book are the stories of fifty people who have recovered from the distress of hearing voices. They have overcome the disabling social and psychiatric attitudes towards voice hearing and have also fought with themselves to accept and make sense of the voices. They have changed their relationship with their voices in order to reclaim their lives.

All the people in this book describe their recovery; how they now accept their voices as personal, and how they have learnt to cope with them and have changed their relationship with them. They have discovered that their voices are not a sign of madness but a reaction to problems in their lives that they couldn’t cope with, and they have found that there is a relationship between the voices and their life history, that the voices talk about problems that they haven’t dealt with – and that they therefore make sense.

Schizophrenia at the Tipping Point

It is time for change, argue Paul Hammersley and colleagues. Now is the moment to abandon conceptions of schizophrenia that are outdated and which do nothing to help people burdened with a diagnosis.