Mini-boards - photosStudying photographs of facial expressions can help people diagnosed with schizphrenia to tackle social isolation, according to a new study from the University of Brighton.

Facial affect recognition is crucial to successful social interaction and has an evolutionary and neural basis but the study, Facial affect recognition and mental health, found that the use of photography can help health practitioners improve affect recognition for people with mental health issues.

Schizophrenia affects about 1 in 100 people and while the exact cause is unknown, a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors can make people more likely to develop the condition.

Study author Steve Smith said: "For people with mental health problems, the business of reading people’s expressions is a real issue. Often they cannot read faces accurately and this contributes to them being socially isolated and this isolation frequently is more disturbing for them than the illness itself.

"All of us need meaningful social communication and to be included in social activities but many people with mental health problems feel and actually are deprived of these foundation stones of life.

"One of the great benefits of ‘phototherapy’ is that, with minimal training, it is an activity that can be done alone and even self-portraits can be instructive and illuminative.

"The option is also available to share and discuss online with sites such as Flikr. With input from health professionals being limited for some clients this latter option may prove to be highly beneficial to clients and can also offer a ‘virtual’ social milieu."

Further reading: International experts call for more integrated approach to treating schizophrenia