Using photovoice to explore women's experiences of a women-only prevention and recovery care service in Australia

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Women should be able to access mental health services that are safe, free from harassment and abuse. Yet, research indicates that women experiencing mental health issues are often not safe in mixed gender environments, and especially in inpatient settings. This qualitative study draws on a photo-elicitation method (‘photovoice’) and semi-structured interviews to explore women's experiences of a sub-acute women-only prevention and recovery care (PARC) service in Australia. Twelve women experiencing mental health issues were recruited via an aftercare peer support group for recent service participants. The women took photographs guided by the central question: ‘What were your experiences of a women-only prevention and recovery care service?’ They then shared these photographs with the researchers and each other, and described them in detail. Four key themes were identified by thematic analysis of the photovoice visual and narrative data: (a) Only women can understand what women go through; (b) I feel safer with no men around due to my history of trauma; (c) This environment feels safe, making it easier to talk and (d) Staff are accessible and make time for me to talk about difficult topics. Woven throughout the women's narratives was the expressed desire to feel safe and supported during the process of recovering. Aspects of service delivery that contributed to these feelings and facilitated shared support were also valued in this setting. These findings indicate that access to women-only services and peer support are not only valued by women experiencing mental health issues, but need to be more widely available to support their recovery. They also underline the importance of a trauma-informed approach for improving the gender sensitivity of services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e5839-e5847
Number of pages9
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • gender and community care
  • patient safety
  • service provision
  • women's mental health

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