Paul Williams - Wildlife Photography – saving my life one frame at a time , The Arts Centre, Thursday, 24. October 2019

Wildlife Photography – saving my life one frame at a time – is the story of one man’s journey to restore his mental health and find meaning once again.
Paul Williams, 58, joined the army at 17 and loved being a soldier. He especially enjoyed the physical, adrenaline filled side of it. But in 1988 he shattered both ankles falling 100 feet in a climbing accident and was never physically the same again. He left the military in 1993.
After that he gained a first class Honours Degree and started working in the mental health sector in Assertive Outreach Teams but didn’t feel fulfilled.
He’s always craved excitement and an adrenaline rush, so in 2000 Paul joined Dorset Police on their High Potential Development Scheme before progressing onto a proactive drugs team.
Again, he loved his job and in 2010 was working as a plain clothes officer when he disarmed a Samurai sword-wielding attacker.
Afterwards Paul felt fine but about a month later he started to experience poor sleep and on the eve of his 50th birthday he took himself to A&E with what he thought was a heart attack. It transpired that he was having a panic attack which was the start of his catastrophic mental breakdown that saw him try to take his own life three times, and ultimately led to the breakdown of many of his important relationships including those with his partner and his five children who forever lost the father they knew.
He was a highly fit and driven man who had succeeded in some of the toughest jobs around, so Paul didn’t think he should get mental health problems and consequently he spent a couple of years beating himself up about it and in denial that there was a problem.
Eventually though, he began EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, which allowed him to begin to re-arrange re-fractured memories that kept recurring and begin to deal with the PTSD.
It also allowed Paul to break the constant desire to die, and have long ignored orthopaedic operations meaning he began to get physically fitter: as he did so his mental health improved too.
He’d always loved photography and as part of his mental health recovery, in 2013 he took a camera out as motivation for getting out of the house.
In 2015 he discovered a family of owls at a Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve near Weymouth and took some photos of them which were used by the Trust.
It was the kick-start his photography career needed.
Now, Paul works as a photographer and his first book is due to be published on September 10th – World ******* Prevention Day.
The book is the first of its kind in that it’s a hybrid of genres – combining textual snapshots of his journey, alongside which he opens his heart about the stigma attached to men with mental health problems, and includes a wealth of his stunning wildlife photography.
It also includes tips and techniques about wellbeing and how Paul managed to step back from the brink to the person he is today.
Paul says: ‘I want to break the stigma around men with mental health problems. I was a highly fit, driven man who had succeeded in some of the toughest jobs around, I didn’t think he should get mental health problems. I’m proof that anyone can. My book is an honest account of what I’ve been through, and I hope it puts mental health, recovery and wellbeing on the agenda.’

Thursday, 24. October 2019, The Arts Centre, Paul Williams - Wildlife Photography – saving my life one frame at a time

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