by IRENE O'NEILL , Associate Editor

Among the many other activities The Awakenings Project has been engaged in, for the past two years, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital’s Recovery Connections and The Awakenings Project have held a PhotoVoice contest in the community. PhotoVoice (PV) originated at Edinburgh University, where 2 Masters-level students shared a passion for blending art and message as a way to advocate for marginalized populations.  Their idea caught fire and eventually turned into a full-fledged international non-profit organization, dedicated to empowering communities and individuals facing overwhelming social injustice.

Internationally, PV has been used as a tool for social change, including issues like HIV/AIDS, homelessness, surviving abuse, poverty, hunger, and mental illness.  Here in the U.S., Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation led the way in making PV hugely popular among the mental health community, as a way to combat stigma and empower individuals living with psychiatric illnesses.

Each PV entry takes what is often seen as an ordinary picture/message, and transforms it into something extraordinary, by creating a striking and captivating statement through the combination of photographs and the written word.  Individually, each PV creation is unique and thought-provoking; together, a PV exhibit creates a powerful chorus of voices making a difference by making a statement about the experiences, challenges and issues of those living in recovery from mental illness.

PV is a wonderful tool to aid in creating much-needed social change and to allow people affected by mental illness the opportunity to express their perspectives in an innovative way, while also combating stigma. From the PV website: PhotoVoice’s vision is for a world in which no one is denied the opportunity to speak out and be heard.

PhotoVoice’s mission is to build skills within disadvantaged and marginalized communities using innovative participatory photography and digital storytelling methods so that they have the opportunity to represent themselves and create tools for advocacy and communications to achieve positive social change.

For more information about PV, check out Contact The Awakenings Project at for more information on how to get involved in our next PV contest or how to get one started in your own community.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Awakenings Project