Cases of children and teenagers hearing voices ‘quite common’

Teams from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are being trained on how to deal with children and young people claiming they are hearing voices.

A public talk taking place today in University College Cork will be told the issue of young people hearing voices is often not indicative of a mental health issue.

Rachel Waddingham of London-based organisation Mind In Camden is the key speaker at the event and she said scenarios in which children and teenagers say they are hearing voices are quite common and not always cause for alarm.

Instead, she said, in many cases, the phenomenon was simply linked to stress, and that once that is addressed, the problem can disappear.

“A lot of people hearing voices will not have a mental health problem,” Ms Waddingham said, adding that, in other cases, there may be an underlying issue.

“It could be OCD, anxiety disorder, depression, an eating disorder, autism, or any emotional difficulty,” she said, “anything that involves a degree of stress.

“But some do not meet the criteria for any mental health difficulty at all.”

She said various studies have indicated that the phenomenon of young people hearing voices is quite prevalent, with one study indicating that between 7% and 8% of teenagers in Britain may hear voices at some point, to another study conducted in south London that claimed 30% of nine- to 12-year-olds had heard voices at some point.

Ms Waddingham said parents did not need to panic if their child tells them they are hearing voices, but she said getting advice from a GP was advisable.

However, she said a psychological approach should be tried ahead of a medical approach and medication should only be utilised at low doses for short periods.

She said Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services workers have been undertaking training provided by Mind In Camden on setting up peer support groups that would “create safe places” in which issues like hearing voices could be discussed.

She said her organisation also answered emails from people around the world with questions about hearing voices.

*Monday’s free public talk takes place between 6.30pm and 8pm in Boole 4 lecture theatre, UCC. For more, see www.voicecollective.co.uk or contact via email atinfo@voicecollective.co.uk

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