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Book Excerpt

Firefighter Emotional Wellness


My love for my family and my deep concern for the pain first responders experience launched me into a quest to understand just what first responders experience in their jobs, in their minds, in their hearts, and in their families, and how I could help make those experiences a little more beautiful and balanced.

As an adult, I have spent countless hours around first responders in the Chicago area. My counseling education has deeply examined the first responder experience, and I have attended national trainings about everything first-responder-emotional-wellness related. I have left no stone unturned because I want to help first responders as thoroughly as possible.

I love first responders because they’re passionate. They chose this career because they want to help people. They are hard-working and courageous and, without a doubt, committed. I have watched them knock down walls and break through metal doors and chase down bad guys, all while still maintaining a clear awareness of their team around them. I love their commitment to the brotherhood. I love their ability to have fun and not take themselves too seriously. And, I love that the environment around first responders is changing in such a way that they are able to be honest with one another about their struggles and the things that they have seen.

I have spent the better part of my counseling career helping first responders sort through the issues that this unique field raises. Truly, it’s ok to be ok, and there are a lot of first responders who go throughout their careers without facing emotional wellness issues. But, I have found that encountering emotional wellness roadblocks in the midst of a first responder career can be surprising and disconcerting, and it is my passion to help first responders find wellness again, rather than staying stuck in their pain. As a first-hand witness to other first responders in my field and their own lack of emotional wellness and mental health support, I am beyond excited to be able to put down on paper so many of the tools and stories and methods of care that can help them be able to live more connected lives. I am thrilled that first responders are now able to talk about their pain in a much more charitable atmosphere, where they can learn and heal and grow instead of turning to secret vices like alcohol and affairs and pornography and other substance/behavioral addictions.

How to Use this Book

In the pages of this book, you will find truth, sometimes hard truth, about what it looks like to be an emotionally well firefighter. I have selected the issues that I think are most integral in the first responder experience, and I have delved into each of those to provide you with insight and tools so that you can overcome them and find yourself again, should you face them in your own life.

In these pages, I explain what I have learned from psychologists, scientists, and first responder experts. I share stories of other first responders I know personally and the ways that they encountered each of these unique issues, so that you can see how they healed and reconnected with themselves to find emotional wellness. Each story shared in this book was shared with permission, and the names of these first responders have been changed to protect their privacy. I hope their stories will encourage you!

Jada Hudson

"Jada takes away the stigma of talking about things like depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicidal ideation."


 – Dr. Thomas E. Joiner, Florida State University.

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