Perspectives of the Sierra: Living with mental illnesses in rural communities of Chiapas, Mexico

Perspectives of the Sierra was a collaboration with Partners in Health Mexico (PIH/CES) that sought to challenge mental health related stigma in rural communities of Chiapas by empowering people living with mental illnesses to share their views and experiences with others. Over the course of four months, we conducted photography workshops based on the PhotoVoice methodology where we involved 20 patients from the mental health programme. All participants developed their own projects and shared these in presentations with family members.

Most participants used a camera for the first time in their lives through the workshop. All participants expressed having enjoyed the experience, both familiarising with photography and using it to reflect on their feelings and experiences with mental illnesses to share with peers. Many participants found useful to meet others who had gone through similar experiences and struggles than them. We observed a decrease in internalised stigma scores in 77% of participants. Family members were surprised to learn for the first time about the many struggles their loved ones had gone through. Many family members also mentioned feeling more understanding of certain behaviours that they had judged as negative before learning more about the characteristics of depression and anxiety.

The project results have been further disseminated to promote the creation of safe environments to speak openly about mental illnesses.