Reflecting lived experience in pictures

Finding personal definitions of creativity to reflect true stories of lived experience of mental illness through photography was a major talking point at Synergi’s recent PhotoVoice public engagement workshop.

Inspired by photographs taken by other service users, from the literal to the symbolic, participants explored finding ethical and inspiring ways to reflect their lives without limiting their imagination.

Described by one participant as “the opportunity to think outside of the box”, there was general agreement that creativity and different art forms have a role to play in helping to overcome mental illness.

A participant with lived experience said: “The workshop was a great connection which took an inspirational approach. It’s about [challenging] the single narrative that reflects people of different cultures and mental health. It’s about photography as a common language.”

Another participant added: “Having the chance to discuss creativity in a confidential setting is very useful.”

The project aims to encourage ethnic minority people with experiences of living with severe mental illness (aged 16 years and above), their carers and healthcare professionals to develop their personal accounts through photographs representing different aspects of their health and care experiences.

At the end the project, a narrated open-access photographic collection will exhibit a selection of the photos produced (with the participants’ agreement).

The participatory photography programme will be hosting more workshops and one to one sessions in London and Manchester, including on request. If you would like to take part or to host a workshop in your space or organisation, contact Dr Kristoffer Halvorsrud at [email protected].

All the comments featured have been shared with the participants’ permission.