Facades of suffering: clients' photo stories about mental illness

Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 2010 Oct;24(5):349-61. doi: 10.1016/j.apnu.2010.02.004. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


In this article, photo stories are examined that were the result of working with photography as a therapeutic instrument dealing with suffering in mental health care settings. The purpose is to describe the role of facades in the process of suffering and acceptance. Clients took photographs, talked about them in group meetings, and exhibited them to a broader audience. Their photo stories were analyzed using a mixed-methods model. Data from two narrative approaches (semiotics and hermeneutics) were compared with information from other informants and official records to find discrepancies between the photo story and the real life context. Although facades are usually perceived as an obstacle for personal growth, the visual narratives revealed that facades can function as an alternative to common acceptance strategies, such as facing one's losses and reconciliation. Facades can create a distance between the person and the suffering. We conclude that visual narratives can reveal and foster agency in clients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Netherlands
  • Photography*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*