Photovoice in mental illness research: A review and recommendations

Health (London). 2016 Mar;20(2):110-26. doi: 10.1177/1363459314567790. Epub 2015 Feb 10.


In the past few decades, photovoice research has gained prominence, providing context rich insights through participants' photographs and narratives. Emergent within the field of photovoice research have been health studies embracing diverse illness issues. The goal of this scoping review article was to describe the use of photovoice in mental illness, paying particular attention to the following: (1) the study design and methods, (2) empirical findings, and (3) dissemination strategies. Nine qualitative studies (seven drawing from primary and two secondary analyses) featuring diverse approaches to analysis of data comprising individual and/or focus group interviews using participant-produced photographs were included in the review. Described were participant's experiences of living with mental illness and/or substance overuse, including feelings of loneliness and being marginalized, along with their support care needs (e.g. physical, emotional, and spiritual) to garner self-confidence, respite, and/or recovery. Empirically, the reviewed articles confirmed the value of participant-produced photographs for obtaining in-depth understandings about individual's mental illness experiences while a focus on stigma and recovery was prominent. In terms of dissemination, while most of the published articles shared some participants' photographs and narratives, less evident were strategies to actively engage the public or policymakers with the images. Recommendations for future photovoice research include conducting formal analyses of participant photographs and strategically lobbying policymakers and raising public awareness through virtual and "in person" photo exhibitions while de-stigmatizing and affirming the experiences of those who are challenged by mental illness.

Keywords: mental health; photovoice; research methodology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Narration*
  • Photography / methods*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Research Design
  • Self Concept
  • Social Marginalization
  • Stereotyping