On Tuesday June 27, Durham Mental Health Services hosted the Carnival de Voix workshop at New Leaf Day Program in Ajax. This workshop provides attendees a new way to understand and manage the experience of hearing voices through puppetry. It will be presented again at CMHA Durham (60 Bond Street, Oshawa) from 1:30 to 4:00pm on Thursday, July 13. CMHA Durham also hosts a Hearing Voice Café on the first Thursday of each month.
Kevin Healey, who developed Carnival de Voix and facilitates the Hearing Voices Café, explains that the workshop grew out of his own experience as a person who hears voices. “I started making puppets a few years ago to represent the voices that I hear,” Kevin says. “I noticed how this started to transform my relationship with those voices. The puppet represents something that is a bit mysterious and a bit scary and makes that more approachable, more relatable and more manageable.”
The puppets also make it easier to talk about the human experience of hearing voices. “Over the past few years,” Kevin says, “I’ve been telling stories using the puppets and I’ve noticed that I can be talking to a room full of people and they are focused on the puppet and not on me. So it creates some space for me – there’s a bit of magic going on. If you look at puppets and how they have been used as an art-form throughout human history, they allow us to communicate that which is otherwise difficult to talk about.”
The workshop is currently in a pilot stage. It will be officially launched at the World Hearing Voices Congress in Boston in August. This conference is an annual event that brings together hundreds of people to learn from and share with each other about this often-misunderstood human experience.
DMHS Peer Support Specialist Team Lead Aubrey Andrus says, “When I took Kevin’s Hearing Voices workshop two years ago, I saw that there was a huge benefit for individuals who have different human experiences such as hearing voices. It provided a way to help normalize those experiences and also gave me tools to introduce to the clients that I work with so that they could better understand their experiences. Sometimes people have a hard time talking about their experiences – good, bad or indifferent, either because they don’t have the words or because stigma and fear take over. Through participation in Carnival de Voix, people can learn another valuable tool that could make it easier to communicate experiences, as the focus can be shifted from the person to the puppet.”
Jennifer Wynne is Senior Case Manager with CMHA Durham. Jennifer explains that “The Hearing Voices movement is something I am personally very passionate about. It normalizes the experience of voices as something not to be feared but to be explored. The Carnival de Voix, the Hearing Voices Café and some of Kevin’s other work provide opportunities for people to come together who experience similar things and create a safe space to explore the voices and talk about them, which reduces isolation. Through this exploration, people can learn new ways to cope and learn to live positively with their voices if that is what they choose.”
Kevin Healey gives the last word to his puppet Dave Umbongo. “What if we could come to understand that voices can give voice to that which a person is not yet able to give voice to themselves.”
For more information on Kevin Healey’s work, please see the Toronto Star article here: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/03/31/hearing_voices_need_not_mean_youre_crazy_says_activist.html. You can also visit Kevin’s website at www.recoverynet.ca.
For more information about the July 13th Carnival de Voix or the Hearing Voices Café, please contact Jennifer Wynne at firstname.lastname@example.org.