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

Our primary aim was to empower people living with mental illnesses in communities of the Sierra of Chiapas to speak up about their experiences. Secondly, we wanted to generate safe environments where they could engage in open conversations with peers and family members. 

To this end we partnered with a local NGO, Compañeros en Salud/Partners in Health, to conduct photography workshops based on the Photovoice methodology. We recruited 21 participants from primary health clinics in four communities in rural Chiapas between April and June of 2017; 8 chose to disseminate their work anonymously and 2 chose not to disseminate it.

Each participant completed a project through which they were able to use images to express their thoughts and feelings around a theme of their choosing. This study allowed both researchers and clinicians to engage with patient perspectives to deepen their understanding of the interaction between individual patients, their illness and the health system. For the patients who were involved, the intervention served as a source of empowerment and enabled shared conversations. 

(Funding: LSHTM Public Engagement Small Grant and Compañeros en Salud.)

Submitted by:
Georgina Miguel Esponda

First approach to a camera

This image symbolises the main achievements of the project. Participants were able to see their lives through the camera lens and to use this tool to portray aspects of it they often not speak about. Participants also saw each other, and were able to related through their common experiences.

Photographer: Camila Jurado

“This is why I get sick. I worry when my sons drink.”

Alcohol related problems are highly prevalent in these communities. In her project, Irma portrays the pain and distress this situation has brought to her life. However, her family is also her main source of support and love, and everyday they help each other carry on.

Photographer: Irma Ruedas

“My hands shake when I get nervous or frightened, just like the leaves of the trees with the wind”

Zendi started suffering from convulsions when she was 10 years old. A wrong diagnosis prevented her to get adequate treatment until she reached adulthood. In her project she portrays some of her most common symptoms, psychogenic non-epileptic seizures and anxiety. She also shares her difficulties to access appropriate treatment.

Photographer: Zendi Vasquez

“Dr. Montse gave me the seeds for this plant. I call it don’t forget me”

Tenfora dedicated her photo project to all of the sources of support she has had during the years she has been struggling with depression. The medical doctor, her community health worker, her family and the nature around her bring her peace during difficult times.

Photographer: Tenfora Mendez

“Sometimes I feel like this mango. I look good on the outside but feel bad inside.”

In her project, Gleysi portrayed her long struggle with depression and how at many times she has felt alone in this journey. She uses the nature that surrounds her to provide beautiful and honest depictions of her feelings. Despite all, she remains strong and hopeful.
Photographer: Gleysi Matias