Hearing voices is considered a symptom of schizophrenia and can quickly lead to hospital lockup, medication, and being shunned by society as “mentally ill.” In this fascinating account, Smith reveals the truth about this experience we call “madness” – hearing voices is actually a normal human experience across history and culture. Poets, religious visionaries, people spending time alone or grieving – even Freud, Gandhi, actor Anthony Hopkins, singer Lady Gaga -- all heard voices, and anyone under the right kind of stress can hear voices. The problem only arises when people hear distressing voices and have nowhere to go for help other than being treated as ill by a doctor.
Psychiatry made the catastrophic mistake of calling homosexuality a mental disease, and for many decades LGBT people were abducted, confined in hospitals, drugged, tortured, and killed for the mental crime of being different. Today people who hear voices are also oppressed, and even though voices that cause them mental pain may come from traumatic experiences that need compassion and healing, they are told they have schizophrenia and will never recover. Smith’s book is a rallying cry for patients’ activism such as the Hearing Voice Movement, where voice-hearers are coming together in self-help groups to find peer support and demand a new understanding of this unreasonably feared and pathologized human experience.