That’s the findings of a University of Brighton student whose research Facial affect recognition and mental health has been published in the journal Mental Health Practice.
Steve Smith, about to graduate with a first in Nursing (Mental Health) BSc(Hons) at the university's School of Nursing and Midwifery in Falmer, 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."
Steve Smith worked on the project with Dr Alec Grant, a Reader in the School of Nursing and Midwifery. The research looked at studying photographs of facial expressions.
Steve Smith, 57 and one of the oldest students to take his course, said: "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 Flickr. 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."
Steve Smith, who hopes to work in the community after graduating, added: "Introducing any form of artistic expression into a client’s life will help them with their communication skills and with self-expression, and photography is so easy, available and cheap."