The use of Photography as a therapeutic tool for secondary students with mental health needs

A person’s mental health includes their cognitive, behavioural and emotional state and, by extension, it can affect their daily life, personal relationships and physical health. Despite the medical care they receive, teenagers with mental health needs often need to be hospitalised in a psychiatric clinic. The continuation of the education of the child or adolescent who is hospitalised is of vital importance, because in this way it will be possible to achieve the continuation of school even after his/her recovery.

The Special High School with Special Lyceum Classes operates on the grounds of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic of General Hospital “Georgios Papanikolaou”, Thessaloniki, Greece. The purpose of the Special High School – in addition to covering the learning gaps of the students and covering their curriculum is also to provide motivation, hope and a sense of competence to its students. This is achieved by involving students in various activities.

One of the activities that take place in the school settings is an environmental action called: “Click … protect it”. This action refers to the art of photography and the way in which the students, through it, can highlight various issues either in the environment of their school, or around the surrounding area where the hospital is located and they believe that is necessary to be protected.

At the beginning of the year, after the project is announced, students are informed about how the project will work during the school year. They also participate in deciding the topic they will deal with and at the same time are informed that the ultimate goal is to participate in the final activities of the project which include the school’s participation in the annual photo exhibition.


The project is carried out on an individual level with a camera and is adapted to the particularities of each student’s condition. The camera can act as a motivator, as a teaching tool and as a means of expression and creativity. The students learn how to operate an analog and digital camera, use zoom in and zoom out, take framed photos, operate the tripod, use the flash, change film in the analog camera – in a sense the use of photography as a self-awareness medium.

Creating photos, viewing them or sharing photos are different ways of expressing yourself, because often words cannot express feelings and thoughts in the way that using a photo or photos can.

Our experience shows that photography in people with mental health needs seems to enhance their sense of pride, self-esteem and self-confidence. Through quality art education in general and more specifically photography, individual creativity is encouraged, but also very importantly, students are given the opportunity to tell their own stories.


Through photography it can be possible to record and engage with the problems of a group or community, to critically discuss those problems, to create collective knowledge and to take action to solve those problems.

The school must ensure the same educational opportunities for all students so that they can fully develop all their abilities. The learning process should be enjoyable but also a challenge for the students. Photography as a learning medium can provide all of these.

George Kotsikas

(Director of the Special High School with Special Lyceum Classes of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinic of General Hospital “Georgios Papanikolaou”, Thessaloniki, Greece)

Email address of George Kotsikas:

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