Years of horror lead news photographer to breakdown

Former media photographer Rhodes Watson reflects on the trauma that led to him having a breakdown.
Former media photographer Rhodes Watson reflects on the trauma that led to him having a breakdown. Chris Ison

CONTROLLING his emotions was how Rhodes Watson coped with the endless visions of death and suicide.

Working as an APN photographer for more than a decade in regional areas, Mr Watson saw more than his fair share of suicides around Central Queensland.

During his functioning years as a photographer, Mr Watson experienced horror, sadness and shock and eventually got to the point where he experienced a severe breakdown from post traumatic stress.

"I'm rarely able to take photos these days," Mr Watson said.

Living in a small town it was easy to get to know a lot of people.

"It got to the point that every time I went to an incident, a car accident or whatever, there was someone there I knew," Mr Watson said.

"In the period of 10 to 15 years, I photographed 28 friends, people who I knew who died."

Mr Watson still finds it difficult to remember the loss of locals or loved ones who lived in his town.

"One incident I remember was where a lady tried to kill herself by running into a truck," he said.

"I didn't know the lady but the truck driver was a family friend.

"It was the people who tried to do the suicide thing - that hurt someone by doing it."

Story after story, Mr Watson relays many dramatic instances that led to his breakdown.

"I remember one time a man put a rope around his throat and drove off with the rope attached to a tree," he said. "He decapitated himself.

"I didn't know the man, but it was a situation I went to."

Finally it got to the stage where Mr Watson was off work for 20 months.

The saddest day I'll ever remember was sitting in the corner of my lounge room, rocking backwards and forwards, crying.

"My three-year-old looked me in the eyes and said, 'Mummy, can I play with daddy today?'

"My wife replied, 'Leave daddy alone - he's sick today'."

The post-traumatic stress that Mr Watson experienced from seeing numerous suicides and deaths caused him to plunge into a depressed state himself.

"You'd be totally out-of-control," he said. "My wife would hold me like I was a baby."

When asked if he was ever suicidal, Mr Watson replied with uncertainty.

"My problem is I don't remember a lot of instances. I had a huge breakdown."

The seriousness of suicide struck Mr Watson at the core and he said he honestly believed it was more of an issue in regional areas.

"Having a family that's close to you makes a lot of difference," he said. "That's your support."

Whether contemplating suicide yourself or having lost a loved one to suicide, Mr Watson said it was important to find someone to talk to.

"It's knowing who you can sit down to talk to with," he said.

"It's hard to find someone to sit there and listen to you without taking on your problems.

"I've got friends who have become policemen and ambulance officers and if ever there is counselling offered I'd say take it."

Now, five years later and as the co-founder of WattElse, Mr Watson is committed to helping people the best way he knows how.

"Now, whenever I get down, I think of my life as a tree," he said. "All the branches reach to the top and there are many different ways to get there."

Topics:  central queensland gladstone suicide suicide prevention

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