It’s important to us that all Hearing Voices Network spaces are ones where people feel respected, valued, safe and able to take part in a way that works for them. Online spaces can be a bit more tricky to navigate than the groups that happen in person … it’s so easy to get the wrong end of the stick or forget that there’s another person on the other side of the screen.
So, before taking part in our online peer support forum we ask that you read this information and do your best to help us keep this space warm and welcoming for all who want to use it.
WHAT IS ONLINE PEER SUPPORT?
This is a space for people who hear voices, see visions, have similar experience or support someone with these experiences to connect with each other. They give you the chance to share a bit about your experiences, how they affect you and what is going on in your life at the moment (the good and the not-so-good). They are a space you can think about ways of dealing with things you find difficult, as well as checking in and sharing some of the things that are going well. They can also be space to share ideas, resources and information with one another.
The space is supported by HVN volunteers. They will have HVN in their display name, so you easily know who they are. We will be checking in on the forum every day. The volunteers from HVN are not here to give answers or be the experts - their role is to support the development of the group, welcome people, help people stick to the guidelines to keep the forum as safe as possible for all.
To help ensure that this group is a warm and supportive place to be, we ask that you do your best to keep to the following guidelines.
Be kind: It’s not always easy to see what people mean when we’re not in the same room. Words can sound harsher in the online world, and sometimes it’s hard to find a way of typing what we actually feel. If someone says something that you find confusing or irritating, please try and give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s OK to ask someone what they mean to give them the chance to explain a little more. Please do not say anything that is personally attacking, nasty or hurtful to another group member.
Be respectful: Everyone has different experiences, different beliefs and a different way of communicating. Our online spaces will work the best if we try to appreciate everyone’s differences, listen to each other and treat everyone with respect.
Be generous: Peer support only works if we can find a way of being interested in, and responding to, the things other people are sharing. Everyone will have their own reasons for logging in, but it would be great if you could also respond to other people’s messages and share some of your perspectives and ideas on what they’re saying too (or, perhaps more importantly, show that you're there and listening). The facilitators are not the experts, each of us has something to offer in a peer support forum.
Don't SPAM: This is a community - it involves give and take. Please don't join if you are simply here to promote a particular event, organisation or perspective rather than engage in mutual support. We will remove posts that seem to be SPAM (e.g. advertising). If someone appears to be promoting without engaging in mutual support we will try to connect with them and encourage them to take part in the forum too. There is a resources section for sharing events, books and information etc.
No personal attacks or bullying: Even when feelings get hot, we ask that you do not post anything that targets, attacks or bullies another member of the forum (or even a specific named person outside of the forum). We will edit and/or delete any post that we feel contravenes this (and let you know why).
Take a break if you feel angry: If someone says something that you find annoying or upsetting, it’s OK to say so. But, no matter how upset or angry you feel, please do not say anything nasty back to the person who has offended you. This is the way that arguments and flame wars happen online, and they can really make the group feel unsafe for the other members who are reading in silence. The forum facilitators will do their best to help people work out any differences and set clear limits. But, if you don’t feel able to type without ‘hitting back’ we ask that you either take a short break from the group (walk around, rant, get some air or message a forum facilitator) or just avoid their posts.
Be mindful with swearing and language: We have decided not to ban swear words as they can be an important way of expressing distress and big feelings. However, there is a difference between swearing to express yourself and swearing at another person. There are also some swear words that have sexual, racist or homophobic roots that can create a difficult atmosphere for others. We ask for your thoughtfulness about your language choices - but also understand that finding the balance between expression and respect is hard, and we'll try and figure it out together.
Remember it’s optional: You get to choose what you say, how much you say and how much you keep private.
It’s not a crisis support service: Whilst many of us go through times that are overwhelming, this online peer support forum is not a replacement for speaking with someone in depth about the things you’re struggling with.
Taking care of the community and yourself: It's important to be able to talk about your experiences here - especially as there are few places in this world where we can be ourselves. Yet, at the same time, we are aware that sometimes going into detail can bring difficult thoughts/memories/feelings back (for the person writing, and the person reading the post who may relate to what is written). As this is an online space, we're aware people may be posting/reading at a time/space where they have little support ... making it different from an in-person peer support group. Finding the balance between people feeling free to be honest and looking after oneself and the community isn't always easy. But we will try to navigate it together.
As a starting point, here are some things to think about:
We want you to feel able to say if you feel suicidal, like self-harming or to discuss difficult voices, visions or life experiences (e.g. the impact of trauma or experiences of discrimination).
When posting about topics that you find difficult, do think about what you feel OK to say (and if you say more than you feel comfortable with you can edit your post or contact a forum facilitator and ask them to edit/delete it.
In recognition that certain topics can be difficult for others to read, we ask that you put a 'Content Warning' in the title of your post and let people know what it's about before they read. This helps them make a choice about whether they feel OK to read or not.
For example, a content warning may look like: **CW: Self-harm, Domestic Violence**
Whilst some forum users might be used to content warnings, it may be new for many of us. It can also be hard to know when to use it (especially if what we are discussing is part of our daily lives and does not feel that intense). All we ask is that you do the best you can.
You will not be penalised for not putting a **CW: ....." on your post, a forum facilitator may just add one if they feel it's important to add it for others' safety. This isn't about sanctions or shaming people ... it's just about trying to find a balance that promotes the safety of our community.
How much sharing is OK?: Even with content warnings, just as in Hearing Voices Groups, there is a line around sharing difficult experiences that can be tricky to navigate. As a general rule, this isn't the space to share explicit, detailed and/or graphic details of abuse, self-harm, suicide attempts or violence. It's also not a place to share detailed methods or tips on harming yourself, restricting food etc. This is because on an online forum they are the type of posts most likely to have a harmful effect on the people reading them. However it is possible to talk about all of these topics without graphic descriptions - focusing on feelings, limiting detail etc.
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a topic will be disturbing to other members … so if a forum facilitator does think that it’s too graphic they’ll step in and let you know. If necessary, they might delete messages or ask you to speak a little more generally. They may also send you details of places you can talk in more detail if you need them.
There is always a grey area - so please bear with us as facilitators, yourself and other members as we all find our way in this online space.
If you’re worried about something someone has said: It's OK to respond to someone and let them know you're worried (without any blame). It’s also OK to message the forum faciltators or email us at infoathearing-voicesdotorg . This might be especially useful if you're worried that we haven't noticed that someone is in distress, and you're leaving the forum carrying a sense of responsibility for another person. Obviously we can’t tell you what is going on for another member, but we can reassure you that we’re reaching out to them and that your worry has been noted.
Privacy and Confidentiality: Please respect the privacy of other forum members. That means that it’s really important not to write down, screenshot or share anything that people write on the screen online. It’s completely OK to talk with your supporters about how you find taking part in the forum, what you talked about and non-personal stuff that you learned. If something has worried you - it's OK to say it, but try to keep it general and focus on the support you need to get through (not talking lots about another person). In short - try not to gossip about what you read here.
Equally, at the National Hearing Voices Network we will keep everything you say private too.The only time we would ever break confidentiality is if we were worried about someone’s immediate safety. But, as always, we would speak to someone first and try and figure out what we can do together.
Think about internet safety: Please don’t share personal emails, addresses or phone numbers in the forum. Be careful about how much personal information you share. Whilst this is a private forum, you may find that people use it who know you in your daily life (or will meet you in the future). It is often much safer to use your first name, a pseudonym or nickname rather than your full name. If you register using what appears to be a full name a forum facilitator will contact you to check your are OK with this (as sometimes people have done it automatically). You can change your own name if needed.
If you feel bullied, or if anyone says anything to you in any of our forums that makes you feel uncomfortable – please tell us about it. You can message us from the forum, or you can email us at infoathearing-voicesdotorg.
Dealing with ideas and advice from other members: It's important that you do not take any advice from other members at face value - we all have different experiences, ideas and different things work for us. The internet is wonderful in that it opens up new resources and information - yet some of it can be worrying or harmful. Beyond this, one person's help (e.g. medication, spiritual practice or therapy) can be another person's harm. We ask you to think carefully before taking up any suggestions. You can use the forum to evaluate pros/cons, or speak with someone you trust.
If you'd like a clear guide to online safety this booklet (aimed at adults with learning disabilities, it is much clearer and easier to read than the other website - so it's a good practical place to start): Keeping Safe Online (Easy Read).
IF SOMEONE BREAKS THE COMMUNITY GUIDELINES
No-one is perfect. At some point, each of us could say something or do something, that accidentally offends or hurts another person. At HVN, we facilitate in a way that assumes that each of us is trying to take part the best we can. If someone says or does something that breaks one of our guidelines, we’ll let them know (by personal message or on the forum – depending which seems most useful).
If someone breaks lots of guidelines or says something that seems to be extremely nasty or attacking of another member – then we may ask them to leave or, if necessary, remove them from the forum. If we ask someone to leave we will try to speak with them afterwards about what happened and whether they would like to take part in the future.
Sometimes we may make mistakes, as facilitators, too. If you think that anything we say is disrespectful or unhelpful – please tell us so that we can apologise and see if there is another way of managing similar situations in future. We want to learn. However, please be kind to facilitators too (who are doing this in their spare time as volunteers).
If you want to speak to someone at HVN about any worries you have about a forum assistant you can contact us at infoathearing-voicesdotorg or message me (Rai)