Photo by Philip Miller
"I have only one ambition in life and that is to be a firefighter, Edward Coaker, Fire Chief FDNY 1913"
The events of July 18, 2015 changed my life for ever, I have struggled with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder for many years I was diagnosed with PTSD two years ago.
Ever since I was a young boy I always wanted to be a firefighter, over the past 30 years I have risen through the ranks of a volunteer firefighter to fire chief, I have delivered newborn babies, I have responded to incidents that I could not save young men and women who have died in my arms despite all that I could do, vehicle accidents, structure fires, and been involved in many man made and natural disasters. I have been involved and seen more death and destruction than I care to count.
For everyone that has been diagnosed with PTSD or other mental health issues whether you served in the military, emergency services, victims of sexual assault, Complex post traumatic stress disorder, or critical stress incidents, we all struggle with some of the same issues but in many different ways.
In 2016, 89 firefighter deaths in the line of duty were recorded. And 130 committed suicide. In 2015, 135 firefighters committed suicide, and 89 lost their lives in the line of duty. The number was a bit lower in 2014 – 114 suicides and 92 line-of-duty deaths, but you can clearly see the trend. These numbers are confirmed by the U.S. Fire Administration. These numbers do not include the military, police officers, EMS personnel or citizens not involved in the aforementioned statistics.
PTSD and mental health issues are real yet invisible, many do not seek help for fear of loosing their jobs, shame, dissociation from coworkers, of those that do seek help a large percentage are not getting the proper treatment to help them, it may not be the right doctor, psychiatrist or therapist.
Having been diagnosed with PTSD and suffering from depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder for which there is no cure, we have to learn to cope with our mental health issues. It is my ambition and intention to help those that suffer or have been diagnosed with mental health issues. If you or your organization no matter how small or large would like to entertain the idea of a speaking engagement please let me know, we cannot afford to continue to loose people to suicide.