Matt Doogue was only in his 20s when he tried to end his life.
After suffering for years with mental health issues, Matt had finally had enough. The depression, anxiety, and paranoia had all taken their toll. “The moment is blurry – in the lead up I was so paranoid and angry that I couldn’t leave the house,” he said. Fortunately, he wasn’t successful.
The father-of-two from Manchester, England, knew he needed help if he wanted to stick around for his young daughters, Jasmine and Amber. But he hadn’t expected to find it looking through a camera lens.
“I went to the doctors and got anti-depressants and counseling but knew I needed something more,” he said. “And that’s when I started photography.”
Something beautiful happened when Matt began capturing insects and spiders. He realized he was a talented nature photographer, particularly with a macro lens. But, more importantly, a calm he never knew before washed over him.
“Looking through that lens gave me insight into a small world, a new world, a world where all my worries and stresses went away, they didn’t exist here and I loved it,” he wrote.
He began learning all there is to know about the different insect and arachnid species. And with each picture, he fell more in love with the beautiful, alien-like creatures.
“Whenever I am out with my camera, I don’t think about my other worries. It is just me and the environment around me,” Matt added. “You can lose yourself with a spider making their web.”
Matt’s breathtaking photos eventually caught the eye of National Geographic. When the publication made him their featured photographer, he called it the “pinnacle of my career.”
It’s been nine years since that hopeless, desperate moment in Matt’s life. And he’s happy to share he’s doing better thanks to his passion. He’s 34 now and living in Scotland, where he hopes to help others suffering from suicidal thoughts.
In November, Matt will speak to students at Edinburgh Napier University about how nature photography can improve mental health. By sharing his own experience, he knows he can make a particularly big difference for men and boys who are often pressured to “man up.”
Immersing himself in nature was the lifeline he needed to pull himself out of rock bottom. And it can do the same for others. We’re so happy Matt found his purpose. You can find more of his stunning work on Facebook and his website.
Share this story to help raise awareness about mental health struggles, and to encourage anyone suffering to reach out for help. If you or anyone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You matter.
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