JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Firefighters don’t just fight fires, they’re exposed to victims with serious injuries and horrific scenes of death and destruction.
Heath Mooney, 41, is a father of two and a lieutenant with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. He is also a recovering alcoholic and battles post-traumatic-stress-disorder from his job.
Mooney is not alone, but many firefighters don’t talk about the calls they respond to and the thoughts that remain in their minds.
“It’s a real stigma in the fire department. We are not supposed to ask for help. We give help,” Mooney said.
Mooney has been with the department for 15 years and has seen many things hard to forget.
“I was at the point to where I could ask for help, or well, I was at a dead-end road,” Mooney said.
He realized he had a problem, so he flew to Maryland, where the International Association of Firefighters has a program to help firefighters.
Mooney spent 38 days there.
“I (had) started drinking a lot, and the funny thing was, I went up for alcohol and wound up getting so much more,” Mooney said. “I was, like, holy cow, this is normal, and that was a reassuring feeling for me. Like, all I wanted to be was normal. And that was very comforting.”
Now, Mooney is on a recovery mission to encourage other firefighters to get the help they need to feel comfortable.
“The biggest thing is, don’t be afraid. There are resources out there to get help. And it has nothing to do with being a man. You’re not alone. There is nothing wrong with asking. There is nothing wrong with being selfish. “For so long, I thought I had to please everyone else. But at the end of the day, we don’t have to. We just have to do the best you can with what you have, and it will all work out,” Mooney said.