In recognition of World Mental Health Day on October 10th, a new photo exhibit by people with mental illnesses is available for viewing in SAMHSA’s History Room located on the lobby level of 1 Choke Cherry Road, Gaithersburg, MD. You can also view the images on SAMHSA’s Flickr page.
The exhibit – which will become part of SAMHSA’s permanent display – was provided by Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, a research and training center co-funded by SAMHSA and the Dept of Education’s National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research to examine issues that permit people to live self-determined and charted lives with an emphasis on employment as a key vehicle.
The display showcases student creations from the Center’s Recovery Education Program using the Photovoice method to depict their experiences with psychiatric disabilities. The Photovoice approach puts cameras in the hands of individuals and asks them to produce statements made up of photo images and words that communicate their experiences.
Through this tool, students were able to create photographs and text exposing the impact that social exclusion has on their lives. Photovoice takes the concerns of a particular community and translate it into a “voice” that can be heard by society at large. Coming together as a group, individuals discuss their concerns, self-perception and place in society as well as the new role they may envision for themselves. Often, going through the PhotoVoice process can bring self-empowerment and validation. The end result of this process is a set of photographs, each one with an accompanying narrative or poetic text that voices the participant’s appreciation of the photograph and the general concerns of the group. The text can expand the meaning of the photograph and portray the individual’s concerns in either a positive or negative light. Classes are held to discuss not only the general concerns of the group but how the photographs enhance the group appreciation of their experiences.
PhotoVoice classes have been held concerning a number of subjects. This particular show documents a class’s concern over the prejudice and discrimination so often associated with individuals with mental illnesses. A study was conducted in conjunction with the classes which demonstrated the class’s effectiveness in increasing participants’ ability to address the social exclusion experienced by people with mental illnesses through the use of strategies that educate others and also by challenging those who manifest prejudicial attitudes and behaviors.
The students selected eight works which they felt to be most emblematic of the PhotoVoice process. The works were specifically selected to highlight the various types of prejudice and discrimination students encountered in their daily lives. It is hoped that, through repeated viewing and dissemination of these images, the public and policy makers will become more aware of the societal challenges faced by individuals diagnosed with mental illness as well as the courage, compassion and intelligence they display when faced with these problems.
The images, which recently were highlighted at SAMHSA’s Voice Awards, are a powerful means of raising public awareness and understanding of behavioral health issues. All are welcome to tour the exhibit.
For more information on SAMHSA’s efforts to promote social inclusion, please see the SAMHSA Resource Center to Promote Acceptance, Dignity and Social Inclusion (ADS Center). For more information on Photovoice check out Boston University’s PhotoVoice and related efforts. For information on World Mental Health Day, check out the World Federation for Mental Health on World.
The development of the classes and the research conducted on its effectiveness was supported by the National Institute of Disability Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration Center for Mental Health Services ( SAMHSA/CMHS) Grant # H133B090014)