used to be a successful businessman. But after being diagnosed with
schizophrenia he became a "revolving door" patient for
eight years. Yet after attending a self-help group for voice-hearers
he found a route to recovery. He tells Adam
James how he is now committed to service-user led initiatives
Bullimore has a story which might both send a chill down your spine
and inspire you.
1991 he was a family man and successful businessman handling turnovers
of £1m. By 1992 he was an overweight, self-confessed down-and-out
psychiatric patient. For the next eight years he became a revolving
door patient. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he said he was once
threatened with life in a secure unit.
Bullimore found a path to recovery. It was not via a new wave neuroleptic,
but a basic - albeit painful - re-appraisal of his life initiated
by contact with those he met through the Hearing Voices Network,
perhaps the most influential self-help organisation for people diagnosed
no longer a schizophrenic. He's a voice-hearer, dedicating his time
working for three organisations. He is chair of Sheffield's Hearing
Voices Network, business manager for Asylum, a magazine for democratic
psychiatry, and co-founder of the Sheffield-based Paranoia Network,
a self-help organisation for people experiencing extreme paranoia,
is the government's own national institute for mental health which
urges mental health services to adopt a "recovery" approach
to practice. "Services of the future will talk as much about
recovery as they do about symptoms and illness," rang the "The
Journey to Recovery - The Government's vision for mental health
care" document in November 2001.
may be a big call, but ministers may be hoping experiences such
as those of Bullimore, essentially written off as a "chronic
schizophrenic", will be a thing of the past.
was bombarded with voices, telling me to stab or burn himself or
harm other people," recalls Bullimore. As well as taking 25
tablets a day ("enough to knock out a cow") he experienced
the worst side of psychiatric services. "Once, I did not have
a bed and slept on the toilet floor," he says. "Drug treatment
was never any benefit. It was a case of drug 'em up and shut 'em
up." The side effects from powerful sedative medication was
all pervasive. For a number of weeks he had to wear a towel under
his mouth to soak up uncontrollably dripping saliva.
Bullimore's social worker then put him in touch with a hearing voices
group in Sheffield. At the time Bullimore was as paranoid as ever.
"I was scruffy and smelly," he remembers. "But the
10 people in the hearing voices group were all clean and presentable.
It was such a wakening because I actually felt I belonged somewhere."
was though mutual support and self-help methods that Bullimore found
his route to recovery. Moreover, against all his doctor's advice
he successfully came off his cocktail of medication. It took two
anxiety. If you times it by 10, that's what the effects of coming
off the medication was like," he recalls.
aged 43, still hears voices. But he says he is control of them,
rather than vice versa. "It's all a power thing," he says.
his previous life Bullimore was a successful seller of fire places.
Now, he is thriving in new territory, promoting service user-led
recovery approaches and immersing himself in developing community
mental health services in Sheffield. His vision for the future?
"It is a better service for people with mental health problems
who have a choice in what treatments they receive." It's a
comment that comes from the heart.
This article first appeared in OpenMind magazine
is the author of Raising
Our Voices - An Account of the Hearing Voices Movement. Available
Hearing Voices Network
19, 2003: Finding a way out of paranoia - a report on the first
self help group for people with extreme paranoia. Will it make as
big an impact on how 'delusions' are viewed as the Hearing Voices
Network continues to do with 'aural hallucinations'?
A sense of
humour to go with it
Andrew Townend, day care worker, St Annes, Leeds
I have just been on a hearing voices course presented by Peter Bullimore.
His story was moving, but told with a great sense of humour.
helping people to recover
Mark Turnbull, support worker, Irwell Valley Housing Association,
June 8, 2007
This man changed my life. After seven years of studying psychology
this man came along and un-jargonised the myths about mental illness.
his words and the work of the hearing voices network dominate my
approach and I am genuinely helping people recover. Thanks Peter!
Hanley, student nurse, Manchester University
Date: September 24, 2008
I attended a lecture today delivered by Mr Bullimore, it was a real
sit up and listen moment. He had the full attention of a lecture
theatre of approx 150 people within the first minute! What an amazing
story and heart warming too.
Peter gave the lecture in a manner that included humour but highlighted
the very real problems that people with mental health issues face
As a student studying adult branch an insight to mental health is
always welcome as it is barely touched on at all during the branch
you Peter, it really has given my colleagues and I something to
Sharon Stansil, mental health nursing student, Canterbury Christchurch
November 13, 2008
In May 2007 I attended a training course on Hearing Voices. The
short role play gave real insight into what it must be like to hear
voices. Peter Bullimore's story inspired me to want to make a difference,
to question existing medical views and look at mental health from
a different perspective. This gave me a thirst for knowledge and
has led me from support worker to student nurse. I am currently
in my second year of university.
From: Chris Hanton, Support Worker, Cairns, Australia
Date: February 25, 2011
Have just attended the first day of a two-day seminar with Peter. He is a fantastic speaker and enjoyed every minute of his detailed experiences. Looking forward to the second day tomorrow.
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