10- to 18-year-olds who hear voices needed for study – along with family

CHILDREN and teenagers who hear voices are invited to take part in a new study that will help develop support services for young people like them.

Youngsters aged between 10 and 18 years can discuss their experiences of hearing voices (also known as auditory verbal hallucinations) to expand the currently limited knowledge base in this area, adding insight to how they and their relatives cope day to day with the occurrence.

Their family members and carers are also invited to participate to assist in exploring the impact on the home environment.

The study is the work of clinical psychologists and researchers Dr Sarah Parry, Senior Lecturer in Clinical and Counselling Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Dr Filippo Varese, Clinical Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Manchester, and is funded by both universities.

Dr Parry said: “Lots of the support that is in place at the moment is based on research with adults who hear voices.

“The Voice Collective, which supports children and young people with unusual sensory experiences, has found what it offers adults doesn’t always work as well with children and young people.

“Our collaboration with the Voice Collective and young people should ensure children’s voices shape the future of young people’s services in this area.

“Similarly, the impact of a young person hearing voices within a family has not been explored in this way before, so we want to get a better sense of what the systemic processes are and what’s beneficial for children and their families.”

An estimated 8 to 10 per cent of children hear voices, often as a non-distressing experience within typical child development. Hearing voices is often not indicative of mental health difficulties.

Voices can range from being a one-off to those with a recognised identity and function, for example, being critical, encouraging or spiritual.

The online survey is intentionally broad and is aimed at youngsters aged between 10 and 18, regardless of the age they began to hear voices.

Parents, grandparents and other key guardians are asked to reflect on how they support their child and grandchildren, perhaps even if they themselves heard voices when they were much younger.

Dr Parry said: “The most helpful thing is hearing from young people themselves about what is helpful and what is not.

“We have devised a survey for children and young people to fill out themselves and they have the opportunity to write a bit about their experience. Teenagers aged between 13 and 18 from all over the world can take part in a children’s survey at Exploring Hearing Voices Children/Young Person Survey.

“There is also a survey for parents and carers – anyone who lives with a young person and cares for them – to try to give us a family and systematic perspective at Exploring Hearing Voices Parent/Caregiver Survey.

“The third option is for any child or young person and/or their parent to come in to talk us about their experiences.”

Children aged between 10 and 18 and/or their parents and carers who would like to share their views in person with researchers can e-mail:youngvoicesstudy@mmu.ac.uk

Also involved in the project are Professor Rebecca Lawthom of Manchester Metropolitan University and Professor Tony Morrison of The University of Manchester and founder of the Psychosis Research Unit.

Follow the project on Twitter at: @youngvoicestudy