“Recovery 4 US” – Development of a Photovoice-based social media program to enhance the recovery and community participation of individuals with psychiatric disabilities





Contact: Zlatka Russinova


While the international mental health community has embraced the recovery paradigm as the core principle guiding the design and implementation of mental health and psychosocial rehabilitation services (Jaeger & Hoff, 2012; Leamy, et al., 2011; Slade & Davidson, 2011; Silverstein & Bellack, 2008) and strides have been made in advancing functional recovery from serious mental illnesses, individuals with psychiatric disabilities continue to experience high levels of social isolation and disruptions in their sense of community (Rowe, et al., 2012; Waghorn & Lloyd, 2005; Ware et al., 2007). At present, effective programs to enhance the community living and participation of persons with psychiatric disabilities are almost non-existent in contrast with the significant progress made in recent years in providing supported housing (Gulcur, et al., 2007), supported employment (Drake et al., 2012), and supported education (Rogers, et al., 2010) services to this population. Thus, there is an urgent need for the development of innovative interventions to enhance the community integration of individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

The purpose of this project therefore is to develop, evaluate and disseminate a new social media program aimed at the enhancement of community participation and overall recovery of individuals with psychiatric disabilities, entitled “Recovery 4 US”. This innovative e-mental health program integrates Internet and mobile technologies and is designed to be a self-sustaining recovery-oriented virtual community for individuals living with a disabling mental illness based on the principles of Photovoice – a public health community based participatory research method (Catalani & Minkler, 2010) with significant mental health promise (Russinova et al., 2014). Members of the “Recovery 4 US” virtual community will be guided to post their personal experiences of recovery using photographs and corresponding narratives (i.e. Photovoice works) and share their thoughts on the work of others. In addition to building a virtual community based on ongoing Photovoice creation and dialog about posted work, the “Recovery 4 US” program includes a “Meet-up” feature which will enable participating members to engage in joint activities, if they so choose, in their actual communities of residence. Finally, the program is designed to provide members with ongoing personal support and encouragement through a mobile phone application which will deliver tailored hope-inspiring messages and images to participating members’ smartphones. In summary, the proposed project has the following goals:

Goal One: To develop a new social media recovery-oriented program “Recovery 4 US”, designed to enhance the community participation and recovery of individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

Goal Two: To evaluate the effectiveness of the “Recovery 4 US” social media program and its perceived utility.

Goal Three: To implement a dissemination campaign about the “Recovery 4 US” social media program in order to promote awareness and engagement in the virtual community.

The proposed development activities are expected to result in an effective novel social media program with a wide range of communal and personal benefits for individuals with psychiatric disabilities. The “Recovery 4 US” program will initiate the development of a self-sustaining recovery-oriented virtual community available at no cost to any individual living with a mental illness. We anticipate that involvement in the “Recovery 4 US” virtual community will be associated with a range of personal benefits for participating members, such as increased hopefulness and capacity to deal with stress, decreased loneliness, increased community integration and overall recovery.

BU Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Staff Role
Zlatka Russinova, Ph.D. Principal Investigator
Marianne Farkas, Sc.D.. Co-Principal Investigator
Lauren Mizock, Ph.D.. Co-Principal Investigator
Vasudha Gidugu, M.A. (Cand.)
David Blair, M.S.
Philippe Bloch, M.Ed.
Hannah Mason


Inquiries related to the project should be addressed to:

Zlatka Russinova

Boston University, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation
940 Commonwealth Avenue West, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02215