RHD Studies Abroad at Paris Conference
January 5, 2024
Paris, France is arguably one of the world’s most enchanting and picturesque cities. This year, the City of Lights hosted the Hearing Voices Congress – an international event bringing people together who hear voices to think, learn, share, and connect with one another. The event is organized by The Hearing Voices Network. Sheila Hall-Prioleau, Program Director of RHD’s Creating Increased Connections (CIC), and Conrad Lawson, a certified peer specialist (CPS) for CIC, seized the opportunity to explore Paris and attended the Congress in October. The Hearing Voices Network is a global organization supporting individuals who hear voices or have unique sensory perceptions and offers a non-judgmental space to share experiences. The organization focuses on understanding, coping, and promoting a more caring approach to mental health services.
Each year, the Congress occurs in a different city, allowing programs in the network the opportunity to meet in person and learn different techniques to help this community. Sheila and Conrad attended this year’s Congress to represent CIC – a program that provides recovery-oriented and trauma-informed mental health services, staffed primarily by people with the lived experience of mental health and co-occurring challenges. When they learned about the chance to network with others who share similar goals, Sheila excitedly made flight and hotel arrangements to secure their spots at the 2023 Congress in Paris.
The event was filled with rich learning moments for Sheila and Conrad, including a memorable dinner aboard a boat. They relished connecting with colleagues from countries such as Australia and Greece, experiencing camaraderie while exchanging helpful ideas. Sheila was particularly intrigued by how other organizations utilized art therapy to create a safe space for individuals who hear voices. “They keep pens, pencils, and a sketch pad there for people in their support groups to sketch it out if they can’t talk about it,” she shared. She was equally impressed by the work other programs have done to support the younger community – as young as 14 years old. Conrad cited many of the same highlights, as well as attending a workshop on living peacefully with non-consensus among people with different points-of-view. Amidst the enriching and informative sessions, they were also able to take in some sightseeing, which included a visit to the grand Eiffel Tower.
Sheila left with new insight into how various countries treat individuals who hear voices, remarking “I wish people were more accepting in this country like they are around the world.” CIC aims to integrate the valuable knowledge gleaned by Sheila and Conrad from the Congress into their everyday work and initiatives moving forward.
To support their mission by donating and learning more, visit https://www.rhd.org/program/creating-increased-connections-through-education-and-support-cic/