The experience of living with chronic mental illness: a photovoice study

Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2008 Jan;44(1):14-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2008.00143.x.


Purpose: This study aims to explore if photovoice methodology can be used to enhance the level of empathy professionals feel when meeting a patient who carries a psychiatric diagnosis in any setting.

Design and methods: This study used a qualitative descriptive design. Seven adult patients were interviewed for 1 hr regarding photos that were taken to represent what it has been like to live with their chronic illness.

Findings: Four major themes emerged: (a) feeling misunderstood and invisible in the world; (b) attempting to gain control and be safe through various actions and activities; (c) making an ongoing effort to repair injured self-esteem; and (d) using various coping skills.

Practice implications: Patients in this study enjoyed the process of taking photos to help tell their story, and they were able to capture meaningful images that communicated their lived experience of dealing with a mental illness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Photography
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Self Concept