photoVOICE at the North Bay Regional Health Centre

Background:  North Bay Regional Medical Center implemented photoVOICE to exemplify its recent adoption of the recovery philosophy of care. As the founder of the methodology, Carole Wang, espouses "What experts think is important may not be what people at the grassroots think is important." photoVOICE is a timely innovation to capture the patient's voice on camera. The photographs uniquely describe the patient's perspective on mental illness and recovery.  As the audience witnesses the person behind the pictures, stigma begins to dissolve. Furthermore, every picture is a real-life definition of an otherwise academic and impersonal term associated with recovery, enhancing and enriching the patient, staff and general public's knowledge and understanding of recovery.


  • Encourage communities, stakeholders, families and those with lived experiences with mental health and/or addictions to seek alternative participatory tools to empower and enable mental wellness and recovery.
  • Promote discussion about social change in our communities.
  • Inform practitioners, health care providers, family members and other stakeholders about photoVOICE, its benefits, how to use the data to make change and the outcomes.
  • Provide participants with the tools they require to start their own photoVOICE projects in their communities – to identify community needs, promote awareness and encourage stigma reduction.
  • Provide opportunity to share information - an interactive way to network with other organizations and communities.
  • Provide education about the benefits of photoVOICE in mental health and addictions settings; means to a better understanding of those with lived experience and perspectives of loved ones / caregivers; a tool to combat stigma associated with mental health and addictions

Overview: We gave cameras to our inpatients in the Specialized Mental Health Centre and asked them to teach us through pictures and narratives what recovery from mental illness looks like to them. Our facility is guided by 10 principals of recovery:

  • Hope
  • Self-direction
  • Individualized/person-centered
  • Empowerment
  • Holism
  • Non-linear
  • Strength-based
  • Peer support
  • Respect
  • Responsibility

Each photoVOICE group focused on a different component of their recovery journey, and every group taught us all so much about the mental health experience.

Outcomes:  Through photoVOICE our patients have been empowered, respected, and they have been heard. The process puts the patient in the driver’s seat allowing them to be the teachers and the staff and community, the students. Who better to teach us about the journey than those who have travelled it? Patients gained skills, gained insight into their strengths and talents, played a role in stigma reduction, set goals for their future by recognizing what needs to change, and often turned a page on their past accepting what was and looking forward to what can be. “What a gift it is to look through another’s eyes, if only for a moment!”

  • photoVOICE at NBRHC was awarded Leading Practice in Patient Experience by Accreditation Canada
  • photoVOICE at NBRHC was awarded Best Practice in reducing Mental Health Stigma by the Mental Health Commission of Canada·         
  • photoVOICE at NBRHC was nominated by the Ontario Hospital Association as a leading practice in patient experience and published accordingly.
  • photoVOICE at NBRHC presented at the International Together Against Stigma: Changing How We See Mental Illness Conference in June 2012.
  • photoVOICE at NBRHC was invited to Boston University, reputed as the gold-standard in mental health recovery, to present on the challenges and successes of the project in a hospital setting.
  • The facilitators of photoVOICE at NBRHC have created a photoVOICE facilitator guide and participant workbook, with video tutorial accompaniment to share at no cost.      


Contact Information:
Tamara Dube
Patient and Family Partnered Care Coordinator
North Bay Regional Health Centre

Source: Association for Patient Experience