How to learn to live with your voice

More than 10% of Quebecers hear voices without necessarily being schizophrenic, according to researchers and organizations trying to help them live with this little-known phenomenon.

“The voice has the same effects, the same consequences as a flesh-and-blood man. It evokes emotions,” explains Myreille St-Onge, a retired professor at Laval University’s School of Social Work and Criminology.

“Some people don’t seek help because they don’t see their voice as very negative and they don’t function well,” continues the woman, who is one of the pioneers of language understanding research in Quebec.


In more than 70% of cases, the voices occur as a result of trauma.

“When we start working on the meaning of voices, we see that there is a connection to previous difficult experiences,” specifies Julie Ohanessian, clinical development coordinator at the Inter-Section Center in Gatineau.

Myreille St-Onge is a retired professor in the Faculty of Social Work and Criminology at Université Laval.

With kind approval

Myreille St-Onge is a retired professor in the Faculty of Social Work and Criminology at Université Laval.

The voices may also reflect these people’s difficulties at home, their poverty or low self-esteem.

To help healthcare professionals better understand their reality, a group of Quebec researchers are currently working on a prototype 3D sound simulator that reproduces a typical auditory hallucination as faithfully as possible.

This project, which involves psychiatry, engineering, sociology and sound production, will ultimately provide a better understanding of the impact of voices on the daily lives of people living with this phenomenon.

groups of voice hearers

At the same time, since 2007, groups of voice hearers have developed throughout Quebec.

These workshops provide “a safe space to speak up without being judged, without anyone saying whether it’s true or not,” says Steven Barron, who co-organizes a group at the Le Rebond center in Montreal.

For its part, Le Journal was able to attend a session offered by the Center for Activities to Maintain Emotional Balance in North Montreal.

For almost an hour, two presenters, including a voice hearer, and three people living with this phenomenon discussed their relationship with their voice and their path to accepting it.

“I put a lot of effort into these meetings to dissect my illness and lower my voice,” explains Keven Gagnon, who has been attending the workshop for three years.

“I feel less alone, it shows me that other people share my opinion,” says Mario-François Gazzero Ouellette, co-moderator of the group.

“Voice hearers are sometimes assailed by their voices. Seeing someone who has done the process is beneficial and gives hope,” says Ms Ohanessian, who provides training for the facilitators of these groups.

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