By Chris Fields
I learned a lot of important things in 31 years in the Fire Service to keep myself, my guys and girls protected so we can all go home. It wasn’t until about my 24th year did I learn what I feel was the most important thing, something that saved my life, my family, and my career. I learned that it was OK to ask for help!! People call us heroes; we say we are just doing our job. Whatever we choose to call it, we can’t be heroes or do our job for everybody else until we first do our job (be Heroes) taking care of ourselves and our families. There has always been such a stigma among the Fire Service, really all first responders about mental health. Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. It happens all too often with 1st responders as it did in my situation that we wait until there is a crisis before we reach out for help, sometimes forced to get help. I know it was that feeling of disgrace that kept me from reaching out, like I couldn’t handle my job, I couldn’t be the protector if I admitted I needed help.