IMAGINING INCLUSION EXPERIENCES

“MG” Photovoice Participant

Posted: June 22, 2018

I have been a client of the Open Door Group for about two years.  My recreation therapist referred me to Photovoice project because I love taking pictures so it was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with something that I used to enjoy. I was not aware at the time that I would also have an impact on mental health research.

Although I have always been a positive person, during my depressive episodes, I isolated myself and felt very negative.  By attending Photovoice, I was curious about the struggles of others and ended up finding some common understanding and connection. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. I found comfort in listening to the other participants even if there weren’t any instant solutions to the issues. That sense of connection meant so much to me although I realized that working in groups can be a problem for me. Still, I was committed to work through my personal challenges and stayed until the very end of the program.

Nature photos that “MG” took during Photovoice.

Many of my photos involved nature since it is something I love. Photovoice forced me out of my comfort zone and back into nature. Even on some of my worst days, I was out in nature taking photos. It was awesome. I also loved seeing the photos of other participants and contributing to all of the interesting discussions around basic things like shelter and isolation to how difficult it can be to navigate the mental health system.

Having peer facilitators in the room was essential to the experience because they helped to bridge the gap between people in the real world without any mental health issues with people in our world who have suffered through mental health issues. The peers helped us present our points of view and were great advocates in allowing us to speak our minds and feeling heard. My hope is that I can also inspire others. I already work as a peer through Vancouver Coastal Health on the Health Outreach and Peer Empowerment (HOPE) program. I also recently got trained as a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator so I can support others through their journey.

When I was growing up, I didn’t believe that I was important and I can still fall into the trap of the past from time to time. But, through Photovoice, I was able to explore my feelings and give voice to them in a safe space. I really want everyone struggling with mental illness to know that they are important. We all matter, even though most of the time, we have been made to feel that what we say is not important. We need connect and support each other. The bottom line is not to give up in our pursuit for happiness because with persistence and connection, I believe it can happen.

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