Hello, my name is Bruno Nicolai. For approximately 20 years I’ve worked in various roles in the community, supporting people to come together to identify their needs and take collective action to solve problems, and supporting individuals to overcome adversity in order to live the life they wish to live. I’m a qualified psychotherapist, I’m employed as a Mental Health Recovery Support Worker at Shine, I co-facilitate the Douglas/Cork City Hearing Voices Group, and in the past I’ve co-produced Hearing Voices Training for all staff within my organisation.
I received multiple psychiatric diagnoses as a teenager; each seemingly worse and less hopeful than the last. Back then, I only mentioned my voice-hearing experiences once or twice to psychiatrists. I learned very quickly that if I said yes to the questions they asked, there’d be a good chance I’d receive another diagnosis, a recommendation of some time in hospital, and a prescription for additional or stronger medication, without me being asked anything about the content or context of my experiences.
By my early 20s, my mental health had improved and voice hearing dissipated. There are innumerable reasons this positive change occurred, but in brief, my recovery began when I found a community of peers and professionals whom I felt truly saw, heard, valued, and respected me, which I internalised. From that point onward, there was no stopping me.
Though my most distressing years occurred in my late teens, I can trace the origins of my poor mental health to a succession of precarious and shaming life-experiences beginning in infanthood, each piggybacking on the next until it became too much. Viewing it through the Power Threat Meaning Framework lens, my distress was completely understandable. I liken my recovery to the paradoxical theory of change; the more I discovered and accepted about my authentic self, the more I changed and the happier I became.
Over the past two decades, my passion for mental health recovery has led me along several different paths, to where I am today. I have seen the recovery movement re-defined and re-interpreted into various forms; at times like a square peg hammered into round hole, and though well intentioned, some of these interpretations seem to maintain the traditional pathologising paradigm, while others move away from it. As my involvement with the Hearing Voices movement increases, I find myself curious to learn about the diversity that lies within it.
As you can imagine, for me, joining the Hearing Voices Network Ireland board is very exciting. Without a doubt, I’ve big shoes to fill, as I replace my board predecessor and wonderful Shine Team Leader, Tian Herbert. I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck-in, supporting, promoting, and expanding the reach of HVNI’s amazing work, and hopefully getting the opportunity to meet lots of you along the way.