Mental health in NZ: What's it like to hear voices?

Ever wondered what it's like to hear voices in your head? For mental health workers in New Zealand, the experience is part of their training.

For the last 20 years former mental health patient Arana Pearson has run a workshop for mental health clinicians, where they try to live an average day while wearing headphones that whisper voices into their minds.

"Really it is about reducing fear, and creating an understanding and opening up a dialogue," he says.

The Nation joined in with a class of nursing students from Massey University. Mr Pearson asked them to carry out ordinary tasks like reading comprehension and running errands, all while listening to the voices from an mp3 player they were given.

"I was just in my own zone and these all other people were just in a totally different planet to me, so it is very isolating," student Hannah Barnett said.

Mental illness is a curse on the majority of New Zealand's prisoners, and experts say the lack of proper treatment is costing taxpayers millions. One of the well-known symptoms for people with conditions like schizophrenia is auditory hallucinations - hearing voices.

This story was produced by The Nation with help from the Mental Health Foundation.

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