Studies show it's five times more common for first responders to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder than the average person, a sobering reminder of the realities they face as they help others on the worst days of their lives.
News4's Melissa Mollet spoke with three Montgomery County firefighters who have had different mental health struggles, but the same advice for others: You're not alone, and it's brave to ask for help.
If you are struggling or in crisis, you’re not alone. Please seek help by calling SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
Breaking the Stigma
It can affect anyone at any time. It doesn’t discriminate by age, race, gender or income. Yet many of us find that mental health and mental illness are tough topics to talk about. That’s why NBC4 is shining a light on the subject by providing education, information and hope.
Eric Fessenden is a third-generation firefighter — and father to a new generation.
The retired master firefighter spent 24 years working in Montgomery County, until he had to retire because of an on-the-job injury.
Depression soon set in, taking the form of anger and pushing away friends, family and colleagues.
Eventually, Fessenden asked for help, confronted his depression and now wants others to know: It’s OK not to be OK.
Strength in Asking for Help
Being a firefighter has always been Lt. Matt Trivett's dream job and he's had a wonderful 35-year career. But as a first responder, he is put in stressful situations and comes face to face with devastation.
"Every call you run are drops in a bucket and some of those drops are big drops, with traumatic calls," he said. "Ultimately, you know, your bucket fills up."
Trivett has also faced the heartbreak of losing colleagues to self-harm. Now, he does his best to fight the stigma around seeking help and share resources about peer support groups, treatment options and more.
Benefits of Counseling
A couple of years ago, firefighter and soon-to-be lieutenant Tammy Jaramillo knew something was off. A few rough calls stuck in her mind and sent her in a downward spiral.
"I knew something was wrong with me. I had no idea what," she said.
Now a master firefighter, she credits 10 months of trauma therapy with getting her where she is today.