Mental Health Mayday: A Firefighter’s Survival Guide From Recruit Through Retirement

Mental Health Mayday: A Firefighter’s Survival Guide From Recruit Through Retirement
Mental Health Mayday: A Firefighter’s Survival Guide From Recruit Through Retirement

An inspiring reflection back on the journey of a firefighter, and a look toward the future of mental health care for emergency service professionals.

“These are the real horrors brought on by the trade that so many of us revere…Some firefighters will not be fazed by these atrocities. They will simply go on with life and continue to be quite well adjusted. Others will act out in various ways…Our goal as counselors is to rest assured that all members go home to their families and have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted life. But, it needs to be recognized that the amount of horrors that firefighters see every day is astronomical. It is they that must harbor these scenes and simply move on to the next call.”
– excerpt from mental Health Mayday

When you envision a firefighter, you may picture the perfectly chiseled men and stunning women you see on programs like Chicago Fire. Firefighters are everyday heroes in our society, but what most people never do, is look under the surface of what these heroes have to face every day: the pain and trauma they witness, the grief and regret they experience when there is nothing more they can do.

Gregg Bagdade began his career as a paramedic before completing his training to become a firefighter on Chicago’s West Side. After seeing innumerable tragedies on the job, and losing a colleague and friend, he began to noticea glaring need for better mental healthcare in the fire service.

He decided to take charge. While he kept up his grueling schedule of 24-hours on, 48-hours off in the service, he began attending a university to become a licensed counselor, specializing in care for those in emergency services.

Today, Bagdade often acts as counselor to his own colleagues, establishing and maintaining strict confidentiality. His goal was to be someone firefighters could talk to who they knew could truly relate. Now, it is to inspire wide-sweeping change in the mental health support systems in place in firehouses across the country.

This powerful book is part memoir and part call to action. Through the tales of his own journey from recruitment through his pending plans for retirement, he reveals the humanity behind the heroic archetype of the American firefighter.

A fascinating and inspiring look behind the scenes of the career of a firefighter.

Gregg Bagdade has had a dual career as a firefighter and licensed professional counselor on Chicago’s West Side. His mission is to change the culture in firehouses to better support the mental health of the heroes in emergency service positions. 

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