Ricky Nuttall - LFB
Service attached to: London Fire Brigade
Length of Service: 16 Years
What attracted you to your role in the Emergency Services?
I've always wanted to be a Firefighter. Ever since I was a kid. I found the idea of running into a burning building exciting and I wanted to help people. Little did I expect the heartbreak of sometimes failed rescue attempts, to have such a lasting traumatic effect on me.I believe that any and every incident we attend has the potential to leave an imprint on you. To create a lasting trauma. Knowing there's access to professional help, can play an invaluable role in maintaining your mental well-being and be an immeasurable support.
Firefighters leave incidents, but the incidents don't leave us. Knowing there's support out there for when we need it; to support us back to our lives, back to our work doing what we love best, will be a phenomenal support to everyone working in the emergency services.
How has a major incident affected your well-being/that of those around you?
I believe that any and every incident we attend has the potential to leave an imprint on you. To create a lasting trauma. You never know how an individual or specific incident will do that though. Sometimes it's a collection of small incidents in quick succession. Sometimes it's one tiny intricacy of an overall incident. Sometimes though, and as was the case for me, it was one huge incident that was full of heartbreak and failed rescue attempts. On 14th June 2017, I was one of the first appliances on scene at Grenfell tower. One of 200 firefighters to attend on the night and an incident that required over 350 Firefighters to attend in total across the entire duration of the fire.After the tragedy, I began to show signs of PTSD, but having never experienced it before I continued in life without looking or asking for support. I got worse and it was alarmingly fast. It wasn't long before I spent my days crying and my nights drinking too much. I had begun using drugs to numb my feelings and I spiralled into an angry bitter depression. I had started counselling sessions but they weren't helping fast enough. My relationships with loved ones crumbled and my heart felt empty. I felt empty. I got so bad, that one day, I sat on my living room floor and cried for 4 hours straight. I then realised that I couldn't feel this sad for the rest of my life and didn't see anyway I could recover. That was the first time I wanted to kill myself and it scared me.
How have you noticed your job impacting other areas of your life?
I feel that all too often, Firefighters are seen as an entity, a simple extension of our role. We aren't seen as human beings with all the complexities, intricacies and emotional needs that naturally live in us all. I always say that "Firefighters leave incidents, but the incidents don't leave us." This means that traumas are carried with me, to the pub, to a family wedding, to a family funeral, or to the birthday celebrations of my young son. Not much will hurt like seeing your joyless face on film, as you are captured watching your son blow out his birthday candles, struggling to force a smile across a tired and pain filled face. Your friends constantly ask what's wrong and you reply briefly, knowing that the truth you so desperately want to tell, will introduce sadness and uncomfortable silences, into what was an otherwise positive environment. My ability to leave people feeling subdued became remarkable in how unremarkable it was to me.
What would it mean to you to have the right support after a work call out/major Incident?
Having such a unique job really isolates you in terms of people's ability to support you. It must feel as frustrating to loved ones and friends watching you suffer, as it does to those that are suffering. A unique job requires a unique level of support. That support plays an invaluable role in maintaining your mental well being, in helping to prevent a decline that renders you anonymous socially and around family. It's often easier to be anonymous than it is to confront the truths of how you feel about yourself and the trauma you contain.
To have someone to talk to, someone that genuinely understands, someone that has been there, is truly invaluable. An immeasurable support.