Explains what it's like to hear voices, where to go for help if you need it, and what others can do to support someone who is struggling with hearing voices.
For friends and family
If someone you care about hears voices you might find it hard to understand what they're experiencing. You might not know how to help. But there are lots of positive things you can do to support them.
- Accept that their experience of the voices is real. Everyone will have a unique experience of hearing voices. You can help by accepting their experience as real - even if you find it hard to understand.
- Try not to make judgements about what hearing voices means for them. Some people don't talk about their voices because they're worried their friends and family won't understand, or will assume they're seriously ill.
- Learn their triggers. Ask if there are certain situations or experiences that trigger their voices.
- Remember that they're still the same person. Hearing voices doesn't change who they are.
My family and friends didn't judge me which I think made it a lot easier for me to deal with.
- Ask them what would help. Try not to make assumptions about what they find difficult. People may want different support at different times. Sometimes it's just best to ask how you can help.
- Reassure them that they're not alone. Lots of people who hear voices don't realise that other people do too. It may also help to remind them that hearing voices does not always mean that they're ill. There are lots of reasons why people hear voices.
- Encourage them to talk about their experience. This might mean talking with you. Or they may want to talk to a doctor, support worker or other people who hear voices.
- Focus on feelings. Ask them how their voices make them feel, rather than what they're saying. The content of voices can be very personal, so try to reassure them that they only need to share what they’re comfortable with.
Eventually I did confide in one of my closest friends. He told me without any drama that it was a fairly normal reaction to a highly stressful situation.
- Try not to take things personally. It can be hard to focus on conversations if you’re hearing voices. Try to be patient if they seem distracted or say that they need some time alone.
- Help to distract them. Try suggesting activities or tasks, such as watching a film, going for a walk or cooking a meal.
- Learn more about the experience of hearing voices and help challenge stigma. Start with our pages about hearing voices and experiences of hearing voices.
- Help them seek treatment or support if they want it. See our page on how to support someone to seek help for more information. But remember that not everyone who hears voices will want, or need, treatment or support.
- Take care of yourself. Looking after someone else may affect your own wellbeing. Read more about looking after yourself in our pages on coping while supporting someone else, managing stress and maintaining your wellbeing.
This information was published in November 2022. We will revise it again in 2025.
References and bibliography available on request.
If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.