Patrick J. Kenny: “Mayday” for Mental Health

July 27, 2015 
By Patrick J. Kenny

How many of us got into the fire service thinking that we are capable of being modern day superheroes, maybe Superman? Don’t laugh. Stay with me as you think of what your idea of the profession is all about. Did you join because you want to make a difference or that someday there might be a life present on this earth because of an action you contributed to or maybe even did yourself?

Not so funny now, is it? Let’s take it to the next level. As chief officers, our number one goal is to protect our firefighters so they all go home to their loved ones. In cases where that has not occurred for whatever reasons, people’s careers and lives have been ruined.

I attended the Fire Rescue International (FRI) in Denver a few years ago where I sat in on three sessions recounting line-of-duty fatalities; two events occurred here in the United States and the other in the United Kingdom. All left me with the sick feeling of what negative impacts they had on the families of the deceased firefighters, the men and women of those departments, and the leaders of those organizations in particular. The chief officers were no longer superheroes, but now very much Clark Kent, in their abilities to protect against harm’s way.

Take it one step further. What if you as the chief officer or someone else in your organization is struggling to protect a member of your immediate family from harm’s way? We all have experienced this situation or know of members in our departments who are struggling with terminal illnesses of children or spouses or deaths of loved ones. How does that make the involved parties feel when they can’t protect the very one they love? The potential for devastation, both personally and professionally, is as powerful as a line-of-duty death?

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