What matters to me? Photovoice with people living with severe mental illness

Louise Roberts
16 March 2021

Roberts, L. (2021). What matters to me? Photovoice with people living with severe mental illness. (A partially redacted thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand).  https://doi.org/10.34074/thes.5642



This research aimed to engage with long term services users with severe or serious mental illness whose voices have traditionally been silenced to add to the growing body of knowledge as to how these identified gaps can be addressed.

Four participants who attend a day service were issued with cameras and asked to photograph ‘What Matters to Me?’ in their everyday life. The question was a deliberate attempt to usurp the medical dialogue ‘What is a Matter?’ Participants were issued with disposable cameras and the photographs formed the basis for individual interviews. Thematic analysis from a descriptive methodology identified themes which were discussed through the lens of the recovery framework CHIME (Connection, Hope and optimism, Identity Meaning, Empowerment).

Findings illustrate that participants identified home, and homemaking, the things they do and the people in their life as what matters. Contrary to much of the literature, participants articulated multiple positive identities viewing an illness identity as only a small part of self. Access to occupations and the importance of narrative and narrative continuity appear to be important aspects of recovery aligning well with the occupational therapy concepts of occupational justice and ‘doing with’.

Keywords: severe mental illness, occupation, connection, meaningfulness

Louise Roberts' research was supervised by Rita Robinson and Mary Butler.


This thesis is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.