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But “distress” hardly captures the inner world of those with severe forms of psychotic illnesses. Terms like “agony,” “torment,” and “anguish” would be much closer to the mark, for many patients with severe psychotic illnesses.

Ronald Pies, MD

Though an accepting, more tolerant movement has risen around the experience of hearing voices, not all voice hearers care to tolerate the experience. Not all can tolerate the experience. Can a non-sufferer begin to comprehend it?

Dr. Ronald Pies, professor of psychiatry and author of several books, reviewed the British Psychological Society report, “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia,” released in November 2014. The report acknowledged that many people hear voices and experience paranoia, but not all who experience the voices have a mental illness. In Pies’ opinion the authors soften the blow of an experience of psychosis when they write, “ there is no clear dividing line between ‘psychosis’ and other thoughts, feelings and beliefs . . . “ 1 The report also notes the symptom of psychosis “can lead to very real distress.”

A reader of Pies’ article named Connie disagreed. She left a comment describing psychosis with a bit more emotion: “For the afflicted, psychosis can be a turmoil, a kind of suffering that makes death plausible.” 1 Her son suffers from the turmoil which leaves him reeling with anxiety and paranoia.

“What is lamentably missing from the BPS report,” writes Pies, “is any deep understanding of the psychic suffering occasioned by severe and enduring psychotic states, including but not limited to schizophrenia. Indeed, I believe the BPS’s attempt to ‘normalize’ psychosis winds up trivializing the immense psychic pain and agony experienced by many persons diagnosed with schizophrenia and related disorders of reality perception.”1

I have not read the report nor do I care to debate but I believe it is just to help those who do not suffer get better insight about living with psychosis. For that reason I encourage you to view the documentary co-directed by psychiatrist Gary Tsai, MD, who grew up with a mother who has schizophrenia. “VOICES A Documentary About the Human and Untold Stories of Psychosis” presents the stories of three people living with psychosis. I think this quote on the Voices website sums up the compassionate point of view the filmmakers have about the suffering they have seen in their profession:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody” ~ Mother Teresa

PBS will air the documentary in July and perhaps you can stream it from other sites. Though you can purchase the film (http://voicesdocumentary.com/watch-on-public-television/ ), it has already been shown across the country through the local channels listed below and might be rebroadcast in your area.

New York, NY – Channel WLIW;

New York, NY – Channel NJTV;

Los Angeles, CA – Channel KVCR;

Los Angeles, CA – Channel KCET;

New Jersey, NJ – Channel NJTV;

Philadelphia, PA – Channel NJTV;

San Francisco, CA – Channel KCSM;

San Francisco, CA – Channel KQED (LIFE Channel);

San Francisco, CA – Channel KRCB;

Phoenix, AR – Channel KAET;

Tampa, FL – Channel WUSF;

Denver, CO – Channel PTV;

Orlando, FL – Channel WEFS;

Cleveland, OH – Channel WVIZ;  Sunday, August 30, 2015 @ 3 pm

Sacramento, CA – Channel KVIE;

Pittsburgh, PA – Channel WQED;

Portland, OR – Channel OPB Plus;

Indianapolis, IN – Channel WFYI;

San Diego, CA – Channel KPBS;

Nashville, TN – Channel NPT;

San Antonio, TX – Channel KLRN;

Kansas City, MO – Channel KCPT;

Columbus, OH – Channel WOSU;

Salt Lake City, UT – Channel KUEN;

South Carolina, SC – Channel ETV;

West Palm Beach, FL – Channel WXEL;


1 “Trivializing the Suffering of Psychosis,” by Ronald W. Pies, MD, Psychiatric Times, December 22, 2014. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/schizophrenia/trivializing-suffering-psychosis