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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Breaking the silence : insights into the impact of being a firefighter on men's mental health Robinson Kitt, Lisa

Abstract

The purpose of this investigation was to explore the impact being a firefighter has on men's mental health. Using narrative methodology, six participants were interviewed using an in-depth, open-ended, semi-structured approach. Through a holistic-content analysis (Lieblich, 1998), two major themes — mental health impact of doing the work; and mental health impact of working in the fire department culture — and numerous sub-themes were reflected by the participants as being significant in regards to how their mental health has been impacted. Contributions of this study include: (a) providing insights into how firefighters experience their work, both in terms of the job requirements as well as the occupational culture in which they work, (b) offering personal descriptions and thus a deeper understanding of trauma symptoms related to fire fighting, (c) providing a window into a largely closed culture and how the overt and tacit norms in the fire department impact the firefighters mental health, and finally, (d) by speaking, the participants have started the process of breaking the silence that seems to plague the fire service related to disclosing mental health symptoms. Acknowledgement comes before acceptance which precedes treatment and healing. The overarching goal of this research was to fill many of the gaps in the research literature and to enhance our clinical understanding of first responder mental health. This study not only adds to the development of the empirical literature and the construction of theory in the area of trauma, masculinity and health, and occupational culture, it also provides practitioners with empirically-based information on how clients who are detrimentally impacted from being a first responder can best be served.

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