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‘Photo voice’ – new approach to dealing with alcohol abuse

‘Photo voice’ – new approach to dealing with alcohol abuse


For Vincentians who are trying to overcome alcohol abuse, a new method of recovery is being explored in a joint effort between the local Mental Health Centre and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (USA).

According to Daniel Lyons, a professor of medical anthropology {{more}}at Mount Sinai, members of an alcohol abuse support group in Barrouallie have been implementing ‘photo voice’ for the past year, and last Thursday put on a photographic exhibition showing the outcomes.

This project incorporates the ‘photo voice’ method, which uses photography to look at how alcoholism is perceived in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and to explore the damage it does physically, mentally, and to the community.

Lyons, who is in his second year of service on this project said: “Last year when I came with two other medical students, we did a project using a research method called ‘photo voice,’ which entails giving people [group members] cameras, and then asking questions about what you’re looking at.”

He also added that not only were the photographs interesting in nature, but they sparked thought-provoking conversation during the subsequent discussions.

Sister Arlitha Scott, national family planning coordinator, said that the overall response to this ‘photo voice’ project has been encouraging.

On a wider level, she noted that the support group at Barrouallie has come a long way since it was founded in 2012. She recalled that initially, the group was met with ridicule from many members of the community, doubting that members would be able to overcome their alcoholism.

The group not only comprises those with alcohol abuse issues, but also family members/friends of those with said issues, who want to encourage their loved ones to overcome alcoholism.

“Since the group opened, it has actually been growing… In terms of the community now, they’re not as aggressive as they used to be towards them [group members].”

Scott encouraged those with alcohol abuse problems to seek help through any of the active groups that meet in Barrouallie (on Wednesdays at 5 p.m.), Bequia, Mustique, and at the Marion House.

She also pointed out that members of the various groups have become like families, in that they look out for and support one another.

Additionally, Lyons pointed out that some of the groups, in SVG operate differently to those in more developed countries, in that there is no anonymity within the groups, because they meet in public areas.

“But I think that that actually has an advantage there,” he explained. “I think that what’s being done – by giving people cameras and having this discussion – it breaks down the barrier between alcoholism being viewed as a very black and white issue. Either you drink or you don’t drink is the usual impression…alcohol use is actually something more nuanced than just black and white.”

Lyons said that he is hopeful that this partnership between Mount Sinai and the Mental Health Centre will lead to the development of a unique “culturally appropriate and Vincentian approach” to dealing with alcohol abuse.

The Mental Health Centre has been working in conjunction with Mount Sinai for the past six to seven years on various projects and has seen involvement on an annual basis from students and doctors at the medical school.

The two most recent additions to the programme are Shiyuan Lin and Maryam Zafer, who are both second year medical students. (JSV)