Conversations about suicide - Kev's story

S1: In case you don't know, I was a firey in Brisbane for 25 years, and in that time I had experienced or was involved in many critical incidents that involved injury and death, and some of those we were first in attendance at suicides, so I think it was exposure to many different incidents that had eventually caught up with me. An accumulation of all those things had manifested itself in the form of a nightmare for me. I wasn't getting any rest. I'd often wake up in a panic attack.

I didn't plan suicide, but I knew at that stage that essentially what I want to do is escape myself. But I didn't want someone else to be coming to me after I had suicided to clean up the mess, and then maybe have them in a few years' time be in the same predicament that I was in. So I started to get some sleep after that, which is... I don't know if that's an odd thing, or whether it's... Who knows whether it's usual? But yeah, I could start to see some light after that.

S2: I wonder if you can take us to that journeying that you took to get some help.

S1: I approached a station officer on the incoming shift who was someone who I respected and trusted, and I just said to him "Listen, I'm not feeling right physically and mentally." With Joe's support and that we had decided to do this together, 'cause it was going to affect not just us, but our family and others as well. So it was at that stage that it was recommended by that station officer to contact our support services for fireys as well as my GP, and I did both. My GP granted me some time off work and with a referral to a psychiatrist, and after that quite lengthy first visit with the psychiatrist, I was advised that I had PTSD. I was actually given the name of a psychologist, and over time I did go and see him. He was fabulous. We had a great rapport, and we worked through things together. I'd say if we weren't a doctor and patient that we'd probably be friends. Having that right relationship with that person, that made it easier working through the therapies and on strategies that seemed to work best for me.

S2: Kev, I'm wondering if we can kind of finish up with some take-home messages. If people are feeling like they're not travelling well and life is really tough for them, what messages do you think that they could hear from you, who's been in a tough place yourself? 

S1: I think it's a time when probably maybe more discussion should be around it rather than less. It probably gets people feeling the most vulnerable they can feel. It's not a comfortable subject to talk about, suicide. Sometimes people won't even mention that word, or they do it at a whisper or quietly. "Do you know what happened to such-and-such?" So I think it's okay to talk about it. I think the more we talk about it, the better.