for better mental health

Wildlife photography and mental health

Monday, 19 August 2019 Trevor

Trevor blogs about how photography helped him recover from a breakdown.

I’ve had two mental breakdowns in my life. The last one was in 2013 and was bought on by pressure at work. I was being forced to do something at my place of work I wasn’t trained to do and as a result I became very stressed.

I was only getting half an hours sleep a night if I was lucky and I wasn’t eating. Your body can only carry on like this for so long, and eventually I broke down, bursting into tears at work. I ended up being off work for 10 weeks, during which time my mental health continued to spiral downhill.

One day I just lost it. A paramedic fast response car and mental health team came to my house, and I was taken to St. Anne’s hospital in Poole. There I was looked after by a really kind, caring and dedicated team of hospital staff.

"I told the doctor about what was happening, and knowing about my love of nature and photography she suggested going out in five-minute bursts."

As part of my care I was given medication, and once I felt stable enough I was discharged and allowed to go home. However, once I got home I found myself too scared to leave the house – my parents only just managed to get me to the doctor.

I told the doctor about what was happening, and knowing about my love of nature and photography she suggested going out in five-minute bursts. I’d set my iPhone timer for five minutes, walk along Bournemouth gardens, take some photos, then when the timer went off go home and write about how I felt in my diary. Bit by bit, as I felt more comfortable, I began to extend my time outside.

"When I was staring through the lens of my camera and concentrating on one moment in time, all my worries faded."

When you’re going through a mental breakdown, all your thoughts and worries are constantly spinning around in your head. However, when I was staring through the lens of my camera and concentrating on one moment in time, all my worries faded into the background. This gave me some much needed headspace.

After a couple of weeks I finally managed to get back down to Bournemouth beach. I can’t describe the feeling I got when I heard the sea lapping against the sand again. I also continued to take photos, and, fully recovered, I am now chasing my dream of becoming a professional wildlife photographer.

I’ve spoken about nature photography and mental health on various blogs, and have also been interviewed on BBC Solent radio, BBC Somerset radio and Forest FM in Dorset. I’m a Getty photographer, and have been published five times including in the Times newspaper. Since being advised by Simon King at his wildlife roadshow at Lyndhurst I’ve also become a member of the Royal photographic society.

I have no problem telling people what I’ve been through and I have never felt any stigma around my mental breakdowns. I speak openly about it because, as I always say to people, they can see if you’ve broken your arm but they can’t see if you’ve broken your mind a little bit.

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