Using Photography to Give a Voice to Mental Illness

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published as a Patient Experience Case Study on the Beryl Institute website.
Case Studies provide real stories of current efforts, including programs being initiated, practices being implemented, and outcomes being targeted and/or achieved. Case studies are presented as both an opportunity for learning from others as well as a spark for further ideas on how we work to improve the patient experience.”

What was the challenge, opportunity or issue faced?

Working with an acute mental health inpatient population, we saw many reasons to introduce photoVOICE here at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. It is powerful in the fight against the stigma that surrounds mental illness, it is empowering to our patients by giving them a voice and it educates everyone it touches from the patient to the policy maker. A photograph goes beyond what words can explain, by sharing the challenges that our patients captured on camera, we were as staff, family and a community more moved to help bring about change!

What did you do to address it?

We gave cameras to our inpatients in the Specialized Mental Health Centre and asked them to teach us through pictures and narratives just what recovery from mental illness looks like to them. Our facility is guided by the 10 principals of Recovery: HOPE, SELF-DIRECTION, INDIVIDUALIZED /PERSON CENTERED, EMPOWERMENT, HOLISM, NON-LINEAR, STRENGTH BASED, PEER SUPPORT, RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY. Each photoVOICE group focused on a different component of its recovery journey and every group taught us all so much about the mental health experience.

What were the outcomes?

Through photoVOICE, our patients have been empowered, respected and heard. The process puts the patient in the driver’s seat, allowing them to be the teachers and the staff and community the students. Who better to teach us about the journey that those who have travelled it? Patients gained skills and insight into their strengths and talents, played a role in stigma reduction, set goals for their future by recognizing what needs to change and often turned a page on their past accepting what was and looking forward to what can be. “What a gift it is to look through another’s eyes, if only for a moment!”

> Download the photoVoice Facilitator Guide

> Download the photoVoice Participant Workbook

About North Bay Regional Health Centre

The North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) is a unique healthcare organization with three primary roles. It provides acute care services to North Bay and its surrounding communities, it is the district referral centre providing specialist services for smaller communities in the area, and it is the specialized mental health service provider serving all of northeast Ontario.

NBRHC has 420 beds and numerous outpatient and outreach services in North Bay and throughout the northeast region.

NBRHC is one of four major acute care hospitals serving northeast Ontario; the others being Sault Area Hospital, Timmins and District Hospital and Health Sciences North (Sudbury). The area is also served by small community hospitals like Mattawa and West Nipissing General hospitals.