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My Dream Job at Risk


Syrus
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For a year, my dream job was to become a Firefighter. However, there are several things that could prevent me of becoming one. I have a history of being abused by my father, depression, suicide attempt, anxiety, and taking prescribed medication legally. I also have been sent to a mental hospital once. Now let me say this, I have greatly improved myself mentally and physically in the past two years. I've been working out 4 times a week, and have gained more confidence. I'm a lot stronger and more physically fit. After taking an antidepressant for 5 years, I finally got off of it, and I feel fine. And I am better in handling my anxiety.

I fully know the risks and challenges involved of being a Firefighter. I know that I will witness people getting 3rd degree burns, losing limbs, losing homes, and people dying. I believe that I am now capable of becoming a Fireman. Many people think that I can't do it because of my mental conditions and history. But I firmly believe that no one has the right to say that you can't fulfill your dream.

Some Firefighters have turned to alcohol and drugs because of the high stress they have in their job. I believe that because of my experience with my conditions, I am more capable of handling the stress involved in the job. I know what it's like to feel hopeless and stressed. But I have overcome it.

So here is my problem. The Fire Department is very specific on what type of person they want to hire. The candidate has to have a strong mental and physical statues. I know I can pass the CPAT, which is the physical test. But, I'm very worried about the polygraph, psych exam, and psych interview. After doing much research, I discovered that they don’t hire people with a history of mental disorders, even depression and anxiety. Same thing applies to people who have taken anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and mood-stabilizers. All of which I have taken before. I currently take only the anti-anxiety. The Fire Department has even rejected people who were abused as children.

I have two options. I could be honest about my conditions, though there is a good chance that they will reject me. Or, I could lie about everything, which is what I might do. I'm currently doing research on how to become a better liar. But, the problem with lying is the polygraph test. They might ask me if I've taken medication for depression etc, or if I've been diagnosed with a mental condition.

The reason they don't like to hire people like me is because they see them as being incapable of handling the stress on the job. I think that this is highly unfair. My history of abuse and mental conditions were not my fault, and were unpreventable. So, why should I be rejected because of this? In the end, my abuse and conditions have made me a stronger person. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I could tell the interviewers this, but I doubt that it would work. They would rather hire someone who is perfectly mentally healthy. I'm worried that I won't be able to become a Firefighter, just because of something that I could not prevent.

I know some people might think that I’m not capable of being a fireman because of my reaction right now. But understand this; the Fire Department has strong requirements that could disqualify me. Who wouldn’t be nervous about that?

I have a complete clean record. No history of illegal drug use, no arrests, or heavy drinking. I'm 22 years old by the way. Please tell me your views on my situation. Should I be honest and risk of being disqualified? Or should I lie saying that I grew up with good parents and have no mental disorders?

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Just my thoughts but I think you should be honest. If you lie and the polygraph picks this up then you will be disqualified for that reason, so either way you risk something. Better to go with the truth since it has a way of coming out later. If this has made you a stronger person then the psych interview should pick that up and if it hasn't then it's a problem with their process, not your fault. If you lie then it is something you did that got you disqualified.

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  • 1 month later...

I agree with Ralph - be honest. The psych interview should pick up on how overcoming your mental illness has made you a stronger person. Unfortunately our society doesn't see it like that. It's a shame - of course there's a chance for a relapse, but as you said, there is quite a history of alcohol/drug abuse in the firefighting community. I would rather have someone by my side who's been through the hell of mental illness and came out the other side than someone with little to no empathy at all for those who struggle with their inner demons. It's ironic that you would be putting yourself in a situation with the potential for PTSD - you're probably better prepared than most with your emotional toolset to cope with PTSD causing trauma - yet you could be passed over. While someone without the history of mental illness could be literally thrown into the fire and be traumatized. What is the process for these firehouses to deal with firefighters who get PTSD? Do they throw them out because they're suddenly mental? Do they help them get treatment?

This really chaps my hide - while there is a real reason for psych evaluations and the rules that govern the mental capacity of those who fill these types of positions, I believe a fair evaluation should be given that takes into account one's experiences and ability to triumph over these issues. It's almost like being treated like a felon. This goes back to the crux of the problem that I want to address - the discrimination, the fear and embarrassment of our society dealing with an increasing population afflicted with mental disorders. There needs to be an open dialogue, those of us who have "made it" are evidence that mental illness can be managed or even overcome - leaving behind a stronger individual with the compassion and fortitude to help others. To me, that's a positive character trait.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi,

I'm in exactly the same situation. I am desperate to become a fire fighter. I had a couple of patches of anxiety and depression in the past so requested my medical records. Oh my god the .gp's I'd seen made it sound terrible. But I'm over it all now, been off anti depressants for over two years, I'm fit and strong, and I know that beating it has made me twice the man I was before. Scared to lie about it in case they ask for medical records anyway. But I'm right for this job and want it to be my future. I'm feeling your pain Syrus.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

I'm in exactly the same situation. I am desperate to become a fire fighter. I had a couple of patches of anxiety and depression in the past so requested my medical records. Oh my god the .gp's I'd seen made it sound terrible. But I'm over it all now, been off anti depressants for over two years, I'm fit and strong, and I know that beating it has made me twice the man I was before. Scared to lie about it in case they ask for medical records anyway. But I'm right for this job and want it to be my future. I'm feeling your pain Syrus.

There is nothing impossible in this world. Getting our dream job is not easy, I myself wants to pursue the job I love the most but it means I need to go back to school to get the degree. Companies or employers would ask about medical records, but most of them will not mind about the past, as long as we are okay at the present and will still be okay.

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  • 11 months later...

Hi syrus, i just want to say i really respect what you said about how you've been through bad stuff with mental hangups but in doing so you are a stronger person because of it and you could be an even better firefighter now that you've been through that. I'm bi polar and am still on medicine but i'm very stable with both feet rooted into the ground. And i also want to be a fire fighter but because i've read that structural fire fighters don't actually get to fight many fires, and i geuss they wouldn't accept me anyways.. ( i believe about 2% of calls that fire fighters go out on in america are fires the rest is more on the emt side of things) I decided i'd rather be a Wild Land Fire Fighter. I hope you see this post man cuz wild land firefighters don't check for this mental stuff and it's easier to get into. I know everyone doesn't live out west where there are wildfires but i live in Florida at the moment but i'm not letting that get in the way of my dream, i'm moving out west once my wife finishes this year of college. So in short, if you Can't get a job as a structural firefighter you may want to consider wild land firefighting, you fight more fire in one single summer than a regular firefighter fights in his/hers whole career =). I hope this helps and i feel your pain, good luck and stay strong!

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