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EMAIL SUPPORT GROUPS FOR VOICE-HEARING by PIPPA

It's the middle of the night and your voices are driving you round the bend - you can't phone your friends or your worker because it's too late. You're scared to phone the emergency doctor because you might be admitted. What can you do?

How about sending an email - to a group of voice-hearers like yourself. Explain how you are feeling, your frustrations and fears. Then check your email the next day and you will have replies of support, suggestions and coping strategies - but most of all, understanding.

You want to come off your medication. Your worker and doctors think it's a bad idea but you're worried about side effects. What can you do? Send an email to the group and get all opinions - people on medication who swear by it, people who have never taken medication in their life, people who came off medication only to get worse and go back on it, people who came off medication and are living a full and active life without it. Some people may also send you web links to relevant internet pages so you can research the subject yourself, and go back to your doctor armed with information.

Your son or daughter starts hearing voices. You don't know whether to take them to the doctor (at risk of stigmatising them) or wait for it to go away by itself, or what to do. Why not send an email to a group of people made up of voice hearers, carers, family members, friends and professionals? Get a balanced view and many different opinions. Receive and accept support from strangers who are often easier to talk to than your closest friends.

You are a mental health worker and you are dealing with clients who hear voices and want to understand it better. Joining an email mailing list like this can help you to do just that. Find out first-hand what the experience of hearing voices is really like, rather than what textbooks have told you. Find out how your clients would actually like to be treated - whether we want you to ask questions about our voices or just ignore them. Find out what taking neuroleptic medication is actually like.

Many people can benefit from email support groups. They offer a degree of anonymity and immediacy which is usually unavailable from "real life" self help groups or mental health services. They are accessible to anyone via a computer or email and can form a valuable part of someone's support network.

How they work is straightforward. You send an email, or go to a webpage, to subscribe to the group. Then you send a message to one central address. That message is then sent out to everyone in that group. Others can reply via that same central address. You also get the chance to reply to other people's emails. You can 'unsubscribe' from the group at any time.

I run two email mailing lists around hearing voices. The first is called Voice Hearers and is only for people who hear voices. If you want to find out more, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/voice-hearers/ , or subscribe by clicking on "join this group". Another way to subscribe is by sending a blank email to voice-hearers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

The second group is called Voice Supporters and is for voice hearers, and carers, friends, family members or professionals who support them. To find out more about this group go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/voicesupporters/ or send a blank email to voicesupporters-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

I hope you consider doing joining one or both of the groups.