The Project



Envisioning Change explored women’s experiences of mental health and substance use within the unique context of the northern city of Prince George, British Columbia.


Commonly referred to as BC's northern capital, Prince George is located on the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh, and is situated at the crossroads of two highways and two rivers. With a population of approximately 76,000, Prince George acts as a service hub for a large rural region and is home to a university and the head offices of the Northern Health Authority.

Research goals

  1. 1.To investigate and produce new knowledge of Prince George women’s lived experiences of substance use and mental health.

  2. 2.To promote dialogue and understanding of substance use and mental health issues among the community and the public, thereby contributing to reducing stigma and discrimination.

  3. 3.To learn about photography as a method for sharing research results in a meaningful way.

  4. 4.To inform individuals in policy and practice for improved services in northern BC.

  5. 5.To learn about photography as a method for engaging women in research.

What we did

The project was launched in August 2011 after recruitment that was assisted by several community organizations. Data was collected using an adaptation of a method called ‘Photovoice’. Five women took photographs in response to questions about their daily lives - the challenges they face, the strengths they find, and their experiences accessing services - living with mental health and substance use issues. Their photographs were used to guide individual, in-depth interviews. The women participated in several group sessions over the months to coordinate the project and we all worked together to organize a photography exhibition that was installed at ArtSpace in downtown Prince George in March 2012. A second exhibition was held at Rotunda Gallery in January 2013.


From the interviews, five themes were identified:

  1. 1.Space and place are active features in women’s experiences.

  2. 2.Mental health and substance use issues are embodied realities.

  3. 3.Power imbalances between women and a variety of structures and systems impact their experiences and outcomes.

  4. 4.Relationships are complex and important factors in health and healing.

  5. 5.Women exhibit great strength and resilience in the face of multi-level challenges.

These themes support the importance of addressing women with substance use and mental health struggles as whole and complex individuals within their particular context. See Photos for specific examples.

A summary report and the thesis are available at the top of this page. Please see them for additional details on the project.



  1. 1.Summary Report

  2. 2.Thesis (2.5 MB)



March 2012

Mexico City

April 2012

Rotunda Gallery

January 2013


  1. 1.PHABC Conference

    Vancouver, BC

    November 2012

  1. 2.International Conference and Exhibition on Addiction Research and Therapy

    Las Vegas, NV

    August 2012

  1. 3.Canadian Collaborative Mental Healthcare Conference

    Vancouver, BC

    June 2012

  1. 4.CIHR Café Scientifique – HealthArt Panel

    Prince George, BC

    March 2012

  1. 5.UNBC 7th Annual Graduate Conference

    Prince George, BC

    March 2012

  1. 6.Research Days Conference

    Prince George, BC

    November 2011

Poster Presentations

  1. 1.NCCPH Summer Institute

    Kelowna, BC

    April 2012

  1. 2.PHABC Conference

    Vancouver, BC

    November 2011

Thesis Committee

Dr. Sarah de Leeuw - Supervisor

Dr. Candida Graham

Dr. Margot Parkes


Photo by LissieLissie.htmlLissie.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0


Photo by Jane